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Spiers on Sport: I've been rooting for England...it's been painful...again

If you had been rooting for England in this World Cup - as I had - then these last 10 days have made for miserable - and predictable - fare.

England, that great country of football heritage, is now the also-ran of the world's elite. It isn't just this World Cup that has established this fact. It is the last six international football finals, stretching over a persuasive 10-year period.

If Gary Lineker or Adrian Chiles have said it once, they have said it 100 times: England have just fallen at the group-stage of a World Cup for the first time since 1958. And we're supposed to be shocked by this?

The last 10 years of English under-achievement in international finals should soften that shock somewhat. Because, steadily and consistently, England have proved themselves purveyors of a lung-bursting mediocrity in these tournaments.

Here are England's "feats" of the past 10 years:

World Cup 2014: out at group-stage.

Euro 2012: reached last 8.

World Cup 2010: reached last 16.

Euro 2008: failed to qualify

World Cup 2006: reached last eight.

Euro 2004: reached last eight.

With the odd high and the odd low, this is a recitation of dogged trying. Determined, patriotic England really are the doughty bulldog of international football: full of bark and menace but with little subtlety or sleight of foot.

A whole series of gifted coaches - from Sven Goran Eriksson to Fabio Capello to Roy Hodgson - have presided over these flawed efforts. A good manager can certainly make a difference, but not in the case of England, where the best of her talent looks leaden compared to the rest of the world's elite.

Hodgson, in the wake of watching his players claim one point from three games in Group D in Brazil, has had to resort to the time-honoured England manager's wafting optimism of old.

Hodgson believes his group of players is "very talented". He thinks there are many "positive signs" for the future. He can't fault England's "attitude or effort".

This has become the great canon of the beaten England manager: droning on in heedless hope while, for an umpteenth time, the world has told you again you are not good enough.

Actually, I quite like Hodgson, and don't believe for a moment he is not a good football manager, filled with knowledge. But this is almost beside the point. The plodding, deflated state of English football is something I doubt Jose Mourinho or Sir Alex Ferguson in his prime could have transformed.

Everyone knows the main problem, so there is no point in banging on about it. English football, such a rampant commercial success at club level, sees its native young flowers being choked and stifled by the invasion of foreign players.

This doesn't mean that a Steven Gerrard, a Wayne Rooney or a Daniel Sturridge cannot come through and prevail as a fine English footballer. Of course it doesn't. But, critically, it means that many more such players cannot emerge at club level due to the recurring foreign imports.

Players like Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling are the latest England players to be deemed "the future". At 24, the slightly older Sturridge is also now a torch-bearer for England's tormented, doomed years ahead.

Sturridge, after such a fine season for Liverpool, is almost being set up as the next Wayne Rooney. Which is to say, the next fall-guy of a striker once held in such high esteem in the cities and shires.

Woe are those English football writers, whose job after all these finals is to breast-beat anew about where it has all gone wrong. By now, this is all a very familiar lament. England, it seems, try as it might, simply cannot deliver.

As a Scotsman writing this, I take no pleasure in it. I'd love to see England thrive again on the international stage - though never against us - simply because it is a country I like and admire, with a brilliant culture of football. The country of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and so many more deserves far better than this.

I'll look forward to the day when English international football really is transformed and elevated again. But I don't see it anytime soon.

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