Historically, this is land nation has clung to two mighty rocks. Gibraltar and the England defence.
While the Spanish may be no nearer to naturalising those apes, the last bastion of the people's football team is close to crumbling.
Glen Johnson is OK on the ball but as a defender he would be hard put toargue a case for his great-grandmother against charges of causing an affray at chucking-out time.
England's finest protection squad (left to right): Jimmy Armfield, Duncan Edwards, Bobby Moore and Ray Wilson
Rio Ferdinand and John Terry were never the quickest but injuries to one and wear and tear on the other have slowed them to the point where any World Cup team deploying two pacy forwards slightly off-middle will give Don Fabio's first-choice central defenders a torrid time.
JEFF POWELL'S ALL-TIME ENGLAND DREAM TEAMWho would make the best team of all time? Jeff Powell kicks off the debateBanks or Shilton? Jeff Powell picks his No 1Ashley Cole has potential but concentration on the defensive elements has been distracted by his domestic affairs, thereby arresting his development from work in progress to finished article.
From which you will gather that none of the men bringing up England's rearguard as they head for South Africa make it into my all-time national dream team. Not even close.
But then neither do two of the back four from the World Cup-winning summer of '66.
George Cohen was a John Bull symbol of that team, with his thunderous tackles and powerful surges along the flank, but he is edged out.
Enlarge HAVE YOUR SAY. Who would be in your best England all-time XI? Jeff Powell - the Daily Mail's chief sports feature writer - is playing fantasy football to select his all-time England XI. If only Fabio Capello could have such options at this summer's World Cup! From the dilemma of picking Shilton or Banks in goal to working out your favourite No 9s and 10s, why not take a walk along memory lane and join the fun. TELL US WHAT YOU THINK Not by Paul Madeley, a vital and accomplished cornerstone of Don Revie's halcyon Leeds United but a versatile operator rather than a specialist right back. Not by Gary Neville, as inspirational a figure for Manchester United and England as he is an astute defender but lacking a cross-hair of precision with his final pass.
No, our loveable George gives way to the cultured gentleman who would have claimed that World Cup-winner's medal had he not been injured before the finals.
Jimmy Armfield, the perfectly balanced right back, captained England on 11 of the 43 occasions he was capped.
He was elected into the team of the tournament at the 1962 World Cup in Chile and voted the best right back in Europe from 1962 to 1964. Thisarchetypal one-club man is now celebrating, as a much-respected radio commentator, the romantic return to the Premier League of Blackpool, forwhom he accumulated a remarkable 627 first-team appearances.
Curiously,since natural-born English left footers are in such short supply, thereare more candidates for the other full back position. Terry Cooper (Leeds), Mick Mills (Ipswich) and Stuart Pearce (almost any club you canthink of) to name but three.
Then there was Kenny Sansom (Arsenal and Crystal Palace) with his then record 85 caps.
Right on: Blackpool great Jimmy Armfield was the perfectly balanced full-back
One story tells why one World Cup-winner cannot be dislodged. Terry Venables, then boss at Palace, tried to illustrate one piece of advice by reminding Sansom of how Ray Wilson used to deal with the problem.
'Raywho?' replied young Kenny, such are the generation gaps. Venables sent him off to study film of '66, showing Wilson at the crisp-tackling, sharp-turning, quick-witted and fast over-lapping perfection which made him the best in the world. Sansom came back with one word: 'Wow.'
Simply the best: England captain Bobby Moore (c) is congratulated by Jimmy Armfield (l) as he clings onto the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966
Next comes the icon about whom countless words deserve to be written most lyrically but who actually needs only one to confirm his selection as the rock of World Cup ages. Bobby Moore was, simply, immaculate.
Which leaves us only to find an English partner for He Who Stands Alongside Franz Beckenbauer as one of the two greatest defenders the world has ever seen.
Jack Charlton, Moore' s giraffe of a side-kick in '66, merits serious consideration. So do Terry Butcher, Tony Adams and even Sol Campbell, for his athleticism, if the quest were limited to taller men able to lend their heading support to Moore's effortless generalship and genius for reading the play.
We have been blessed, also, with big men of broader gifts. Roy McFarland, Cloughie's colossus at Derby County, was magnificently mobile. Size, however, is not everything.
Billy Wright stood only 5ft 8in but the uncanny levitation which won almost all his aerial battles contributed as much as his ferocious tackling and positional intelligence to Wolverhampton Wanderers' most famous son becoming the first England footballer to win 100 caps.
Enlarge Only the brief emergence of a phenomenon denies Wright a place alongside Moore.
Duncan Edwards was regarded by many as on his way to becoming the greatest ever footballer - not just in England but the world - when the Munich air tragedy decimated Manchester United's Busby Babes. He is described by Sir Bobby Charlton as 'superior in every phase of the game to Pele, Maradona, Di Stefano or Best.'
Sir Matt used his physical power and aura of authority - 'astonishing in one so young' - mostly as an old-fashioned wing half, but Don Revie was one of many leading managers who believed he would have conquered the world at centre back.
Moore relished the prospect of such a pairing, saying: 'Duncan would have been unstoppable surging forward from centre half, and a Rock of Gibraltar beside me.'
Given the like of those two today, we would still be saying the same of England's World Cup defence of 2010.
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