One of the biggest problems with English international football is institutional arrogance. We qualify for a tournament and that means we're going to win it.
We've heard this nonsense too many times.
What's the logic? We gave football to the world, so we're entitled to the trophy? It doesn't work like that. Yes, England did superbly to win the first eight games straight in a qualifying campaign that ended last night. But we've got to get out of the mentality that we're owed anything.
Spain, the European champions, won their first nine in qualifying, and will be in South Africa. Brazil, five-times World Cup winners, will be there, so too the Netherlands, who won eight of eight in qualifying.
We played Spain in a friendly not long ago and they passed us off the park. The Dutch will be up there, and you don't write off Brazil. We all love Brazil, where even the defenders are flair players.
As for African teams on African soil – who knows what strong nations like Ivory Coast, with a rampant, in-form Didier Drogba, can do?
And then there's Germany, three-times winners. We increasingly hear about poor old Germany and their poor team, and then in major events they reach the final (2008) or semis (2006). It proves just how good they are, how good their league is. They produce when it matters. At national level they're organised and serious and take nothing for granted.
Fabio Capello is making a difference, no doubt. He doesn't give a stuff about reputations. He's not afraid to ruffle feathers. The players know they need to play well to get in his team and work hard to stay there. I don't doubt he'll get the best from the playing resources available to him.
But for England to have a chance, we'll need our very best players all available, and at the top of their games. Two stand out: Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. Gerrard is a top, top player, so impressive because at Liverpool he runs the game from his chosen role, and with England he's still influential on the left.
I've voiced my admiration for Rooney before. I also like Gareth Barry. We've got two fine centre-halves in Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. And Emile Heskey is a player's player who gives you so much.
He gets on with his work. He's a constructive, selfless footballer. He's a good guy, with the right attitude. Bottle some of that for the nation and we might be on to something.
Exhibition a reminder of Regis class
On Monday evening, I went to the opening of an exhibition being staged at Sportcity in Manchester, next to Manchester City's ground. It's called "Black Looks", by Colin Yates, and the subject is the history of black and Asian players in Britain. There are paintings, artworks and installations of various kinds, featuring players from Arthur Wharton in the 19th century onwards.
Wharton came from what was then the Gold Coast, now modern-day Ghana. He was a world-class runner as well as a top keeper, and a pioneer. The exhibition is on until 26 October in Manchester, then moves to Birmingham, and I recommend it.
As someone who was a footy-mad kid in the late Seventies and early Eighties (it's my 38th birthday today), I looked up to Cyrille Regis as my personal pioneer. I remember him most vividly with West Brom, often in trying circumstances. We're only talking about 30 years ago, but being a black player then could bring considerable tests, and flak.
Watching Cyrille play with distinction inspired me, and gave me the belief that I could be a footballer. Years later, when I met him, he was so humble it was unbelievable. The way he held himself, and always has done, proves his sheer class.
County sack McParland? What a surprise
Hands up anyone who was surprised that Notts County sacked Ian McParland. No hands? There's a surprise. It was only a matter of time, and it must leave a bitter taste in the mouth not just for McParland but a lot of people wanting to believe in County's "project". Back on 22 July, when Sven arrived, the County chairman, Peter Trembling, said publicly: "Ian and Sven will work together. Ian knows the division and it will be all about teamwork."
Teamwork? How's that, then? Sven will pass the buck and Ian will score his P45?
Is it any wonder that some people, like my old friend Sol Campbell, didn't want to take them at their word for too long before opting out? No doubt a big-name manager will arrive soon. Good luck to him. He'll need it.
The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at the law firm Thomas EggarReuse content