England fans a fickle folk. One minute it's all doom and gloom and the next we're going to win the World Cup. But England's impressive 3-0 win in Bulgaria last Friday gave fans a reason to be optimistic about the future.
It was a new style of football not witnessed by England fans before. Fabio Capello, and many previous England managers, have stubbornly used the rigid and orthodox 4-4-2 formation. There's nothing wrong with this but it doesn't suit the way English players play and the players that the national side have had down the years.
Traditionally English players have played with pace and power. They're not technical players, it's a very unique way of playing but it's our way of playing. Too often in the past have we been attempting to play the continental style of keeping the ball and patiently building an attack. We should be playing to our strengths, instead of trying to beat other teams at their own game.
You look at the options England have available - Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon a few examples - and there's so much pace there, no other national side in the world can boast such options.
I'm not going to get hopeful and giddy with a win over a poor Bulgaria side but it was the way the team was set up and the manner of the victory which should give English fans hope for the future. The rigid 4-4-2 had gone and instead there was a more fluid, flexible 4-2-3-1 formation.
England played with two holding players win the shape of Scott Parker and Gareth Barry who protected the back four, exerted a lot of energy and hassled the Bulgarians into mistakes. This was what allowed the front four to play with such freedom and expression.
Walcott was on the right, Downing on the left with Young playing in behind Wayne Rooney. That is a formidable front four with an abundance of pace and versatility. Instead of having to stick to their individual positions, these four were allowed to make runs from anywhere, causing havoc amongst the defence.
It also allowed Rooney to play with freedom, this is when he's at his best and most effective. One of Capello's greatest frustrations is how he continues to play players out of their best position. Rooney is without question England's best player, he's one of the best in the world on his day but so often he has under-performed with England.
But on Friday he scored two goals and looked at his best. He was allowed to play with that freedom. Rooney is the type of player who's desperate to be involved and get his foot on the ball but he cannot do that when he's stuck to one position. This wasn't the case against Bulgaria. The three behind him meant he could drop off at times to get involved in the play but also play as the traditional number nine. It's when he's at his peerless best.
It's early days but there's promising signs for England. There's a new breed of players coming though, the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley, Jack Wilshere and more, and they're a different type of player to the previous generation. They're more technical and have a more intelligent footballing brain. They're capable of keeping the ball better, it's an exciting thought when thinking of the future of English football.
Below is a very probable England team in a few years. Not only is the formation different, but the style of play is different, as is the type of players compared to the previous generation. There's plenty of fluidity upfront along with a great abundance of energy in central midfield as Wilshere and Cleverley will run all day long. The players are far more technical, better on the ball. Even the defenders like Smalling and Jones. The amount of pace and power in there is frightening.
Players are capable of playing in different positions and swapping with each other. Young can move out to the left, Rooney can drop off and play a deeper role while Walcott could cut inside and take it on himself or power down the line, beating men and putting in a cross. It's what England have lacked in recent years. We've been far too rigid in the past and that's been a big reason for our downfall.
The other advantage of this system is how the full-backs will be allowed far more freedom to bomb down the wings and get involved in attacks as they are fully aware that they have plenty of protection in the shape of the two holding midfield players. There are so many positives to this style and it's when England play their best football. They look solid at the back and threatening in attack. The players coming through have plenty of talent but it's all about transferring it to the big tournaments, and if they can do that then there's exciting times ahead.