Alec Swann - The King is dead, long live the (next) King

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

When is the right time to make the change?

Not moving house or job, although that can be a decision to tax the clearest ofd minds, but the termination of a successful sporting outfit or career.

History has shown, time and time and time again, that this is a decision that really does benefit from a healthy does of hindsight.

It is those on the inside, those in the heat of the battle, those existing in the bubble that surrounds professional teams and individuals who just don’t see the bigger picture and fail to notice the increasingly bright warning light until it is much too late.

Think England’s cricket team in the winter, a group with an excellent record who played a series too far and were given an almighty hiding.

Think Manchester United, Premier League champions who, with a new man at the helm, didn’t carry out the necessary surgery and were made to look like also-rans.

Think numerous boxers, the lure of former glories too great to resist, who take that additional fight and find the youthful vigour once possessed has long gone.

With a bit of research I could go on but I’d like to think the point has been made.

And all of this should resonate given the fate that befell the Spanish national football team on Wednesday evening.

The defending World champions, a squad boasting numerous modern greats and responsible for a style to make the purists drool, awarded a dose of reality that must have hit them between the eys with some force.

Fresh off an unexpected drubbing by the Netherlands, and in a contest they couldn’t afford to lose, the Spaniards were given a good going-over by an enthusiastic Chile side who were well worth their 2-0 triumph.

On the highest stage, in the game’s marquee event, the team to beat had their shorts pulled down and their backsides slapped.

An empire, one had that bestrode the game for a decent length of time picking up every major prize going, crumbling in a 90-minute spell that proved, emphatically, that experience isn’t everything.

In the aftermath, in fact, as the drama was unfolding, it was all too apparent that this was a Spanish side who had taken on a tournament too many.

They appeared slow, ponderous, tactically lacking and, dare one say it, not up to the challenge.

In very stark contrast, their opponents were sharper, more nimble, pressed hard and continuosly and rose to the very same examination.

It happens to the best as time waits for no sportsman and the Spanish’s time, as of Wednesday evening, is up.

Out-thought, out-fought, out-played.