England feel the weight of history
England launch their Euro 2012 quest in Donetsk this evening (6 p.m.) with manager Roy Hodgson admitting his players can feel the weight of history on their shoulders.
Not since 1966 have the Three Lions roared, a fact repeated so often it has almost become a parody of itself.
Even the opposition were joining in at the Donbass Arena as a French journalist used England's miserable record since that glorious Wembley day to question whether England is a major football power.
Hodgson responded with a mini history lesson, then, in an ante room a few minutes later, expanded on his theme.
"Of course we feel the weight of history," he said.
"It was a facetious question but there was a little element of truth in what he was saying.
"As a top nation we haven't won as many tournaments as we should or done as well as we should.
"We all feel that weight and there's nothing we can do to take it off our shoulders except make certain we embrace the tournament, that we are not afraid of it and that we believe in ourselves.
"It's a fact of life. But I think before the very good French period we could have levelled a similar accusation against them."
It seemed England's feathers were ruffled by that major power jibe.
"You didn't actually need to remind me," Hodgson said of England's World Cup win.
"That has crossed my mind on one or two occasions."
Skipper Steven Gerrard was even more forthright.
"Questions like that are more of a motivation," he said.
"I don't see them as something to react to or an accusation.
"I have belief in my team-mates. I see it in training, I see it week in, week out in the Premier League.
"It comes more from not performing in tournaments. But three times we have been a penalty kick away from getting to the last four.
"If we had done, people's perceptions would have been a lot different.
"In one tournament very soon it will click, we will get that bit of luck and prove an awful lot of people wrong, like that (French) fellow who was sitting at the back."
Yet, in those intervening 46 years, rarely have England's chances looked quite so bleak.
A coach who is only 40 days into the job, four players lost to injury, a row over Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney suspended for the opening two games.
Little wonder when they attempt to end France's 21-match unbeaten run tomorrow, England will be massive underdogs.
Yet Hodgson's optimism even surprises himself.
"I'm as confident as I can possibly be," he said.
"You can't do anything about the past. Whatever's happened, whether it's good or bad, has gone.
"What you can affect is the future.
"The players couldn't have tried harder in the training sessions.
"Training is training and matches are matches and I've been in football long enough to know that things don't always click on the big day.
"It's 90 minutes on the stage. All you can hope is that your rehearsals and preparations go well and believe the better you rehearse the better chance you have of a good performance."
Unless there is a late shock, Danny Welbeck will take the central striking role and the wide slots will be filled by Stewart Downing and James Milner, who was able to train this evening after missing a couple of sessions with a blistered heel.
England expects, as always, despite all the reasons for negativity.
However, maybe it is a measure of the sober reality that Gerrard was not afraid to talk of the reaction to potential defeat, even if that long-held fall back position of England's players needing to produce their Premier League form, was also on his mind.
"Collective is the key word," he said.
"We've all got to turn up and perform well at the right time.
"There's no point one or two turning up, otherwise we'll go home early.
"To be successful at this level everyone has to be right at it.
"It's the first game. It is important we don't get carried away thinking we are going to win the tournament if we win and don't commit suicide if we lose because there will still be two games to recover.
"It's not the end of the world whichever way it goes."