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Ah, the annual September international break, killing the mood more effectively than unexpected bubbles in a romantic bath. Whilst fans of some clubs may be glad for the pause (here's looking at you Liverpool), for the majority these first qualifiers are merely the fly in the ointment, dampening the early-season optimism that seems to invade us all.
The reason for such negativity is not simply the reduction of televised football but, more worryingly, that we have significantly fallen out of love with our national team. Whilst drunk on Sunday evening (I know, a school night, I'm rock 'n' roll) I decided upon the perfect analogy. The England team are, to me, like a wayward father. Fans, so desperate for some solidity in our support of the national team, are the sadly oft-ignored child.
After a seemingly peaceful marriage, the Football League was traded in for the Premier League, a blonder, bigger-boobed and shorter-skirted younger model. Initially, Dad kept his promise to stick by his child despite the upheaval in circumstances, and Euro 96 was certainly a great day out.
But the inevitable decline soon followed. With the younger model demanding so much of Dad's time, we were always going to be pushed into the background. England have failed to progress beyond the first knockout round of a competition since 2006, and beyond the second knockout round since 1996. At the last two tournaments we have been outclassed technically or tactically by teams that in turn experienced the same fate. We were always going to suffer, but that suffering still hurts.
We haven't given up hope, and international tournaments continue to appear on the horizon of hope like the promise of a trip to Alton Towers or the seaside. Despite the protestations from our head that we shouldn't get too excited our heart takes over, and we imagine paddling in the sea, queuing for a rollercoaster or Gerrard finally lifting a trophy.
But, as ever, the wayward dad doesn't come through for us. We are left staring out of the window at an empty driveway, and staring at the television at a celebrating Italian, cursing the fact that this time we really did believe. Again. At these moments of bitterness we cry out for the solid foundations of our domestic club, whom we love dearly despite the occasional argument. The weak promises of days in the sun are nothing without the guarantee of cuddles before bedtime. And we assure ourselves, once more, that until dad finally sorts himself out with the fundamentals of a steady life we won't believe, and we won't care.
The problem, as with so bloody much in life, is underlying love. If we could walk away then we would, and if we could walk away then we already would have done. But then another qualification campaign begins in Moldova, and we realise that we can do sod all about inbuilt, hard-wired emotional dependence. We are addicted to hope, and hopelessly addicted. We know it will hurt again, but what if this time it wasn't all broken dreams, false dawns and the running of tears down England facepaint?
Well, actually, this time it might be different. This time dad might have actually laid the solid foundations to make a difference, and build a relationship with me.
Two weeks ago, the new National Football Centre opened in Burton. This is, put simply, a Mecca for football, a breeding ground for sustenance and sustainability. Across its 330 acres it houses eleven full-size outdoor pitches including an elite training pitch that is an exact replica of Wembley's, indoor training pitches, three gyms, a hydrotherapy suite, a bespoke rehabilitation and medical centre and two hotels offering facilities for conferences and banqueting. It will house the England team during training camps and pre-match preparation.
Whilst a National Football Centre to match the French Clairefontaine has been hugely overdue, and the £120million cost is less than a sixth of the expense of Wembley and a quarter of the money spent on players by Premier League clubs this summer, now is not the time for criticism. We are copying the rest of Europe, but in playing catch up we have little choice. Doing things the 'English way' has been fraught with failure thus far. We can attack the previous failures, but it would be futile to do so. Instead let us celebrate improvements and genuine hope, and cherish the opportunity for redemption.
All pitches can be easily reduced to seven-a-side size, a measure designed to allow for children to become more comfortable with ball at feet, one of the most critical elements of England's underperformance in comparison with European counterparts. One of Gareth Southgate's denunciations as the FA's Head of Elite Development was that the focus on speed and strength was too great in England, ignoring the advantages of possession football.
The centre also aims to be the base where coaches are coached, and will be the home of FA Learning, which aims to act as the educational arm to all parties within football. The downfall between the number of UEFA-licenced coaches within England and our peers is both much-publicised and maligned, and the FA hopes that the attraction of Burton as a coaching school will attract more individuals to shift from the 'parent helper' scenario to an increased level of expertise. Coaching will be established as a recognised profession rather than a mere weekend pastime.
Although not directly responsible for the progression of young players, it is key that increasing the quality and quantity of coaching within the grassroots game will make an indelible mark on the standard of our footballers. This will not happen next year and it may not happen in five years. But we must have faith that improvements have been facilitated. Critically, for the first time in twenty years, our national team possesses something that is a step-up from Premier League level.
It is important to realise that St George's Park is not the solution itself but merely the tool to achieving the solution, and its self-appointed title is the 'University of Football'. For it to have more than merely cosmetic impact all stakeholders will have to pull in the same direction, but there are encouraging signs that there is a real want for such a scenario. Dad can use these facilities to become a better role model. Rather than now coasting, he will have to work harder than ever. Woe betide him if he wastes this opportunity.
I'm not asking for the best dad in the world, because I think my mate Sergio has that one covered. I'm just after a dad I can rely on, and a team we can all be proud of. Let's just hope that this time, finally, progression can be made.
Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter