Poor Roy Hodgson. While he might not be able to boast about England’s attacking prowess under his stewardship, the owlish manager could at least have looked with pride at their defensive record.
That is until now, as Gary Cahill has praised Gary Neville to the rafters for making England tougher to play against, laying the credit for their five clean sheets in a row at his feet.
The Three Lions haven’t conceded since Luis Suarez’s late goal effectively ended their World Cup dream.
Since then Costa Rica, Norway, Switzerland, San Marino and Estonia have all been kept at bay successfully, not a stellar list of sides but a cause for minor celebration.
Neville’s role in this newfound solidity will only add grist to the mill that he is being groomed to take over from Hodgson with the national side.
The former Manchester United player is the 9/1 favourite to be England’s next boss, ahead of such illustrious names as Jose Mourinho (10/1) and Pep Guardiola (14/1).
Neville won 85 caps for the Three Lions, and has consistently impressed with his punditry since retiring, but might need a bit more on his CV to land the job.
Luckily Hodgson isn’t likely to go anywhere before Euro 2016, as England will stroll through their qualification games aided by their Neville-toughened defence.
That ranks as plenty of time for the ex-United man to gain experience in the top job somewhere.
A Premier League job will probably be within his reach given Neville’s fast-growing reputation – after all, Tim Sherwood managed to get one – and the next club to fire their current manager will surely consider the former right-back.
That’s if Neville fancies the challenge of course. A cushy job with Sky and a coaching role with England might be the limit of his ambitions for now.
However, if he wants the Three Lions hottest after Hodgson, it’s most likely there on a plate for him if he makes the right moves.