Sadly, from an England perspective, the 2006 World Cup never threatened to hit any thrilling heights. I have to say I am excited, though, by the prospect of the final tonight. I think we can all look forward to a terrific game, because Italy played such wonderful football to win their semi-final against Germany. They were absolutely outstanding,
I feel that the Italians have got the bit between their teeth. They have a lot to prove, because they haven't really been a force at world level for a number of years now.
I can't see France beating them; the Italians have too much flair. France looked a bit square at the back in their semi-final. They gave away a lot of chances. A better team than Portugal would have embarrassed them.
So, yes, I can see the Italians giving us a terrific finale tonight. As for our national team's part in the tournament, I have to say that this was without doubt the worst England campaign in a World Cup that I can remember. We struggled against Trinidad & Tobago, Ecuador and Paraguay - three teams who would have difficulties in our championship. We also struggled against two very mediocre sides in Sweden and Portugal.
It was acutely painful to watch. OK, we went out on penalties in the quarter-finals, but we didn't deserve to get past the group stage. We won the first game with an own goal, and in the next two matches the defenders John Terry and Ashley Cole saved us from an early exit.
It was awful, looking back at it. Our team structure was absolutely dreadful. There was no balance to the side at all. And the fact that the coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, didn't have another two fit, experienced forwards in his squad was an absolute howler.
When you look at Eriksson and what happened to England in Germany, I think you have to go back to the autumn of 2003 and consider the events before we went to Turkey to play in a European Championship qualifier. The discipline went out of the window when Eriksson allowed senior players to take the squad into an ante-room and discuss whether or not they were going to go on strike after the FA dropped Rio Ferdinand because of his missed drugs test. It showed a complete lack of control on Eriksson's part.
I can't think of anything worse than trying to hold your country to ransom in that way. You can't help wondering whether player power took hold even as early as then. In this World Cup, against Portugal, we had a situation where David Beckham was told to come off and he turned to the bench and looked as though he was saying, "Five more minutes". You simply can't have that. If the manager says, "Come off", you come off. You don't have the players dictating to the manager.
It makes you wonder to what extent Steve McClaren has had an input over the past three or four years. Is he likely to be able to stamp his control over the players straight away, now that he is the head coach? I think the best thing we have heard from him so far is that he wants to appoint Terry Venables as his right-hand man. I hope that happens, because Terry is one man who knows what it's all about. He's a great tactician. He would give McClaren and the players proper advice.
I don't know how many of the present players are going to be retained, but if you asked me to pick the next England squad Beckham wouldn't be in it. He's given some great service to England over the years, but he hasn't been cutting it for a long time now. I think Aaron Lennon showed that when he was used as a substitute. We need wingers. We need width in our play. I'm sure that's an area McClaren will address.
I've heard that certain players in the England squad have criticised the 1966 team for being critical of them, but whatever else we may be we're Englishmen, and we want our country to win. We were fortunate that we had such a great manager as Sir Alf Ramsey. He was a quiet disciplinarian. All he asked of us in 1966 was to think about playing for our country and to do the right thing for a month - not to be distracted by other things, by our wives or girlfriends or anything else, just for that short period of time. It wasn't too much to ask. The rewards were great enough, after all.
PS: Game will be ruined if Fifa don't stamp out this chicanery
This business of diving, feigning injury, shirt-pulling and haranguing of referees has reached absolutely outrageous proportions. It sickens me to see it. It's a sign of defeat; these people can't win the proper way, so they try to do it in the worst possible way. It happened to us in 1966, of course. Everybody was so appalled by the behaviour of the Argentin-ian side that there was going to be an official inquiry; Fifa were going to regulate standards of behaviour throughout world football. That went by the board, but if Fifa don't get on top of it after this World Cup it's going to ruin a perfectly wonderful game.Reuse content