Game over – now for the real entertainment

1966 is a date so etched in the national psyche that it’s one of the first numbers you’re advised not to use as a cashcard PIN or computer password. And that’s not because it was the year Harold Wilson won his second election.

Harold made a connection, though. Which is why he picked June 1970 for the next election.

Unhappily, Bobby Moore and company let him down this time. They let slip a 2-0 lead against the West Germans in Leon, Mexico – and four days later Edward Heath’s Tories swept Wilson out of office.

The connection has also been made in a current ad campaign pointing out that 2010 is again both an election year and a World Cup year. I think it’s trying to conjure up a good omen for England’s footballers.

Presumably the advertisers forgot – or banked on everyone else forgetting – that 1970 debacle.

Or that 1974, when England failed even to qualify for the World Cup finals, was also an election year.

Still, the phoney war of this year’s election is now happily behind us and we can start looking forward to the real contest to come in South Africa next month.

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Fabio Capello, we’re told, has won a trophy with every team he’s managed. So that’s another good omen.

Mind you, Matja� Kek of Slovenia can say the same after two league titles with Maribor.

Capello’s rival Italian Marcello Lippi can’t. He does have a World Cup to his name, though, a crown he’ll be defending.

So does Carlos Alberto Parreira, now in charge of South Africa, having led Brazil to triumph in 1994.

But the most startling comparison among World Cup bosses is with Diego Maradona.

The Argentina coach took charge of his country after a record in club management that read Played 23, Won 3. That’s games, not trophies.

At the other extreme Otto Rehhagel, who led Greece to the 2004 European title and is still their boss, has more victories to his name in the German Bundesliga than any other coach. Then again, he also has most draws and most defeats.

His teams have scored more goals – and conceded more goals – than anyone else’s, too. Which all adds up to nothing much, but I thought it was interesting.

And, of course, nothing much is exactly what Capello’s past record will mean if he fails with England this summer.

So how would you define failure?

Not lifting the trophy? That would simply put him on a par with every other coach who has ever taken England to a tournament abroad.

And, indeed, with all but one of 31 others who will go to South Africa with various levels – mostly unrealistic – of hope and expectation behind them.

Would you consider it success if England make the semis?

Only Bobby Robson has achieved that, in Italy in 1990.

Set aside flag-waving jingoism, meaningless omens and the regular four-yearly bout of unrealistic optimism (and its equally unrealistic opposite) and the cool facts are these.

FIFA’s current ranking list puts England eighth. Which, despite the inevitable manifold anomalies in the ranking system, is probably about right.

On that basis, the realistic expectation would be for them to get to the quarter-finals, but not beyond.

Just what they did last time, in fact. And the time before. And, indeed, in 1954, 1962, 1970 and 1986.

That’s half the World Cups they’ve ever been in.

Anything less than a quarter-final appearance and Capello’s a very expensive failure. Anything more is a bonus.

WELL, thank goodness that’s over. Not just the Britain’s-Got-Talent election campaign, but Ipswich Town’s dullest and most frustrating season in living memory.

Did you hear the one about the three longstanding season-ticketholders who grew so disinterested at the last game they didn’t even notice Town had a player sent off? That’s no joke.

Roy Keane is now halfway through the two years he gave himself to take Town into the Premier League.

Has he made any discernible progress towards that goal? Or has he merely spent a lot of money making a mediocre team worse?

He’s used 39 different players in the first team this season and given 21 their Town debuts.

The Player of the Season is a loanee who won’t be here next term.

Unless I’ve lost count, Keane sent out 10 different players to play at left-back, not one of them a natural in that position. And the best of them, David Wright, has now been shown the door.

Yes, I know Town have a tradition of standing by their managers. And yes, in general I think that’s a good thing.

But it does depend on making the right appointment in the first place.

The next one had better be someone who knows what he’s doing.