When England stuttered to a frustrating 0-0 draw against tomorrow's opponents Montenegro last October; Wembley was a dark place.
"The squad's old, the manager's foreign." would have been a phrase uttered by some of the more fickle England supporters, I imagine. After all, Capello's men went into the game with a spotless 100% record.
And so the scoreline was even more suprising. Wembley should be a fortress, not a venue where players hide away, fearful of making a mistake. Memories of a certain fixture against the Croats appeared to be still lingering in the memory. There was not an umbrella in sight, but the images remain.
Casting your eye over the team that faced Montenegro last year, it's a stark contrast to the sides that battled Wales and Montenegro. The so-called Golden Generation (what they've done to achieve such a nickname is beyond me.) were present throughout the team against Montenegro. The likes of Ferdinand, Gerrard, Ashley Cole and co were all selected, with more youthful talent forced to sit this one out.
No offence to Kevin Davies of Bolton, but England is a step too far for the powerful striker. Davies entered the fray after 69 minutes, becoming the second oldest England debutant ever at 33 years and 200 days. The Bolton captain hasn't been seen in any latter Capello squads.
Capello opted for a more youthful approach against Bulgaria and Wales, handing defender Chris Smalling his deserved debut at right-back. Centre-back Gary Cahill rewarded Capello for his good faith, scoring his first England goal to help the Three Lions run out 3-0 winners. Pace and energy were evident througout the side, with Ashley Young and Theo Walcott deployed on the wings. Wayne Rooney grabbed the headlines, netting twice to continue his good run of form.
As the Welsh contingent arrived at Wembley; a feeling of optimism was in the air, in both dressing rooms. Gary Speed's team had conceded their qualification hopes were over, but a chance of an upset against England was a distinct possibility. England shared the same optimism, but for a much different reason. Euro 2012 was in England's sights, suitcases being fished out ready for the trip to Poland and Ukraine in the summer.
The side didn't contain the same zest as the previous game in Bulgaria, looking a little more lethargic this time out. Only an Ashley Young strike spared England's blushes. And then there was That Miss. Step forward, Robert Earnshaw. The striker has made his name as a clinical finisher, a sort of "You put it there and I'll finish it" type. Not here, though, blazing his shot high above the crossbar when a simple tap-in would have sufficed. It's not quite as horrific as Senor Torres' miss against Manchester United a few weeks ago, but it's up there.
And so England got lucky, only Earnshaw's poor accuracy preventing embarrassment. I have a feeling that Montenegro, inside a stadium described as the English equivalent to Craven Cottage, will not be quite so generous.
England vs Montenegro tomorrow night, 8pm.