CAST adrift in choppy seas, English football must be hoping for similar salvation to that which came the way of the Costa Allegra cruise liner earlier this week.
The Allegra, part of the same fleet as the Costa Concordia that ran aground off the coast of Italy in January, spent three days floating aimlessly in the Indian Ocean after a fire in the engine room saw the ship lose all power.
It took the arrival of a large French fishing vessel to ensure the safe return of the 636 passengers to port by towing the Allegra away from a stretch of water that has seen many pirate attacks in recent years.
Whether the concerns of Three Lions supporters can be similarly eased as Euro 2012 hoves into view remains to be seen with the events of Wednesday night at Wembley once again underlining just how rudderless the national team has become in the wake of Fabio Capello’s departure.
Against a Holland side who played much of the game at training ground pace, England slumped to a 3-2 defeat in Stuart Pearce’s first game as caretaker manager.
The one-goal margin of defeat against a team who less than two years ago were competing in a World Cup final may not sound too catastrophic.
But, in truth, England were well beaten with the suspicion being that the Dutch were capable of stepping up a gear any time they chose to ensure a first win at Wembley since the last days of Don Revie’s reign in 1977.
The home side, in contrast, did not seem equipped to do the same with deficiencies running through all three areas of the pitch.
In defence, Pearce’s side lacked organisation – most notably after half-time when the Dutch finally started to reveal their attacking teeth. Not only were Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling pulled all over by the incisive running of the visitors but Micah Richards, on his first international start since 2007, proved singularly unable to deal with the threat of Arjen Robben.
A lack of creativity was also evident in midfield for much of Wednesday evening, while up front Danny Wellbeck proved a willing runner but not a lot else as a lack of support left the Manchester United man isolated.
Even the arrival of the night’s one plus point, Daniel Sturridge, whose outrageous step-over and cross shortly after replacing Steven Gerrard brought the crowd to life after a dull opening half-hour, was not enough to ease the concerns of the home fans as they made their way down Wembley Way afterwards.
The blunt truth that could be gleaned from the defeat is just what a mess England have managed to get themselves in three months before Euro 2012 gets under way.
And what perhaps made England’s struggles more galling was how the other three teams they will face in the group stage this summer fared as tournament hosts Ukraine won in Israel and Sweden claimed an impressive 3-1 win in Croatia.
By far the most impressive performance, however, belonged to France, who triumphed 2-1 against second-favourites Germany in Bremen.
Looking at those results, England might have all on to even win a point in June never mind reach the knockout stage.
The post-match words of Pearce hardly offered much hope, either, as he gave the press conflicting signals by admitting he was not experienced enough to take charge but could do a good job in Euro 2012 all the same. Surely you cannot be one without the other, the main criterion for any manager of a major national team being an ability to do well in tournament football.
If Pearce could guarantee getting to the semi-finals in Euro 2012 then the FA should appoint him right now. The truth, however, is he cannot – meaning the time has come for the Football Association to act.
Harry Redknapp is the obvious candidate, even allowing for Tottenham Hotspur’s understandable reluctance to let go a manager who is on the verge of securing Champions League football for the second time in three years.
Common courtesy and a desire not to unsettle Spurs’ season may be why the FA have been so reluctant to make an approach so far but, as Wednesday night proved, the time for pondering what to do next has passed.
The alternative is allowing the perception that the national team is drifting to grow even further.
Drift is not good. Not in business, not in football.
England badly need strong direction. The Three Lions are not going to win Euro 2012, we all know that.
Not even Sir Alex Ferguson could bridge the existing gap on Holland, Spain and their ilk inside three months.
Avoiding humiliation, however, is possible but it means we need to see strong direction now.
The FA have had enough time since Capello resigned to identify their preferred candidates.
It is time for action and time to send out a Mayday distress call to Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.