Gary Lineker says England's football is going back to the Dark Ages. It's hard not to agree.
During training Wayne Rooney and Phil Jagielka cleaned out the hog's bladder by hand. Ashley Cole stitched it up before it was inflated by some hot air from a Roy Hodgson press conference.
Meanwhile, out in the woods, James Milner and Joe Hart lopped down an entire copse of silver birches and fashioned a set of goalposts from it. Woy led training with a hawkish eye, ensuring that the players didn't at any moment take their eyes of the bear they were bating. And after a hard shift, they all relaxed with a spit-roast stag and a glass of mead.
On the other hand, 1-1 against the Republic of Ireland in a fecking awful game is par for the course. I seem to remember St. Gary bundling in a goal at the start of Italia '90 that had all the precision and elegance of a drunk falling down the stairs. That was a pretty dark game too.
But this 4-4-2 nonsense that dogs England footballers has got to stop. The only thing to be said in its favour is that at least the players understand it. They've been playing it all their lives. From the moment they stepped on to a muddy windswept footy field as a seven-year-old - almost certainly a full-size pitch - they've had some old croak on the touchline bellowing at them about keeping their shape. (Ironically the man in question has very often entirely lost his own shape).
English footballers are treated like privates in a regimented platoon. Everyone has his job. Obey that and you'll be fine. If you're a centre-half don't start doing keepy-uppies. If you're a full-back, we might let you bomb on - but only very rarely.
I'm not sure I've ever seen an England team play in such horrible straight lines. Even Rooney, who does have a footballing brain even if that leaves very little cortex left over to include owt else, couldn't fashion anything like an inspirational moment. But then England have for far too long relied on a bloke who, like the Artist Formerly Known As Prince, needs to be renamed as On The Wane Rooney.
Certainly there is now officially nothing to be optimistic about when it comes to the England team. That is unless you see something hopeful in the fact that Sturridge was 'lively' in the first half. That's the sort of patronising description you hand out to a third tier team when they get a goal at Stamford Bridge in the third round of the FA Cup.
Sturridge won't be off to the Maracana with he rest of the England journeymen. Maybe that stadium will lift the team to new heights. Well I say heights. Just off the floor might be a start. It's hard to imagine anything other than Brazil absolutely ripping apart a team that seems shorn of anything resembling wit or spark.
It's worth saying that England are always shit at this time of the year. The players have been through a long season - although given the Champions League showings not as long as it might have been. Then again, when do the World Cups and Euros happen? At THIS time of year. It can't simply be fatigue. The other factor is... and whisper it because Roy won't admit it and even the FIFA rankings connive in it... England are not very good.
All right so there was no Gerrard or Wilshere but pretty much everyone else picked themselves. OK it was a friendly, and they're always a bit flat. Carrick was England's best player, just about. The holding midfielder. You think about England in recent years and very often the best player on the park is the one who plays there: Owen Hargreaves running his bony little knees off; Scotty Parker flinging himself like a rabid bodyguard in the way of strikes at goal.
These players stand out because, for too much more than half the time, England DON'T HAVE THE BALL. One chump or another has just plonked it back to the opposition. If that opposition is Ireland then don't worry too much, they'll be kicking it back to you very soon. If it's Italy, or Spain, or Brazil, you simply won't see the ball again for a good five minutes.
It doesn't really matter what Hodgson says. In fact the more he opens his mouth the less you believe that he believes what he's saying. Look at Dortmund. The game has moved on. The old English virtues of commitment, passion, physicality - well, everyone does that now, boys - look at Dortmund. And the difference with Dortmund is they include the other vital ingredient of PASSING THE BALL TO EACH OTHER!!!!
They also have flexible versatile footballers who don't worry too much about interchanging positions; who look for space to exploit rather than the place they should be.
Those of us that endure the Revie and post-Revie doldrums, well you should get ready for some more. England will not qualify for the next World Cup. They are simply not good enough. Not by a long, long chalk. Chalk being the writing implement of choice for a Dark Ages football coach.