THERE was only one moment of quality in England's performance at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday - David Beckham's perfectly-weighted, inch-perfect cross to Peter Crouch, who breasted it down and put it in the Croatia net. It was probably the last we shall ever see of Beckham in an England shirt and it was a memory to treasure. For the rest, it was rubbish. Steve McLaren also showed some quality at his press conference yesterday when he took the full responsibility for England's failure to qualify for the European Championship and refused what must have been a great temptation to point to the unavailability through injury of five of England's key players in mitigation. The current debate about whether the many foreign footballers in the Premiership are preventing promising English players from surfacing is relevant; the most gifted will almost always make their presence felt but the second layer of talent may be discouraged by limited opportunities and never realise their full potential. At times on Wednesday it was not easy to understand how some of those representing England could ever have been thought to be of international standing.
Now a new manager has to be found. The problem can be seen in perspective when it is remembered that among McLaren's rivals for the job in 2006 were Alan Curbishley and Sam Allardyce.
A foreigner again? Yes - Arsene Wenger; but where would he find the English players to play the beautiful game he believes in and so successfully pursues with his foreigners at Arsenal?