BOOING before the last friendly, fitness doubts over key figures in the squad, and a lingering concern that the manager really knows his best 11… That’ll be England before a major tournament, then.

When we last went to the World Cup in 2018 the levels of expectation were so low, there really wasn’t a debate on what Gareth Southgate should or shouldn’t do with his team.

Success and the semi-finals came as a pleasant surprise and very nearly made for the perfect summer.

This time, possibly as a result of lockdown fever, folk actually believe the Three Lions have a chance of winning the thing, particularly with so many of their games set to be played at Wembley.

English domination of the European club competitions helped to stir up that old sense of superiority and with that comes an inevitable streak of self-destruction.

Two big players – Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire – were picked for the 26-man squad despite carrying injuries, which is not a policy that has worked out for England at major tournaments for as long as I can remember.

Without them, the team is talented but inexperienced. It is difficult to see anyone stepping in for Maguire as a commanding centre-half, Henderson is another matter. And if he does make the squad, keep him away from those penalties.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s absence can, at least, be masked by the fact right-back is an area which is extremely well stocked in this group, by accident or design.

England hit the bar twice in the first half against Romania and broke through at a canter in the second, scoring one of their two efforts from the spot. They won the game - but some real concerns were there to see in defence.

Tyrone Mings did nothing to show me he should be starting games for his country. The big Villa defender has shown some worrying lapses in concentration in the last couple of games which should have cost England goals.

Luke Shaw looked dangerous going forward early on but, again, the chasms of space found regularly between him and Mings would surely have been punished by better opponents.

Southgate’s bit-part players were a mixed bag. Ben White did well enough but Ben Godfrey was guilty of dropping off a couple of times. If Maguire does not pull through, neither are yet ready to fill his boots in such pressured circumstances.

And then there is the question of the ‘26th man’. Jesse Lingard has the experience and comes off a terrific spell at West Ham but, for me, the set piece skills of James Ward-Prowse make him a more useful inclusion.

It must be a worry that with Manchester City and Chelsea’s players taking no part in the friendlies, Southgate has not been able to put anything like his best team out on the pitch in the build-up to Euro 2020.

Big questions still loom large, less than a week before the opening game. Unlike defence, there is an embarrassment of riches in attack. Harry Kane picks himself yet striking a balance between pace and provision either side of him is problematic.

Jack Grealish showed again that he should be the first name on the team-sheet against Croatia but that must come at the cost excluding Phil Foden, England’s other genuine class player on the ball. Two possession-based wide men could make for a front line that lacks penetration and pace.

Marcus Rashford scored a ballsy penalty as stand-in captain yet his general play seems to lack a touch of confidence. Jadon Sancho has quite the opposite problem – and, if anything, the Borussia Dortmund youngster took too many touches when simplicity was needed.

To top it all off, fans who booed England’s players taking the knee genuinely need their bumps feeling.

There are a few intelligent players in that squad and Southgate himself is quite a learned fella. But I doubt a single of them could tell the difference between Karl Marx and Richard Marx.

How many copies of Das Kapital do you think are passed around on the team coach?

It isn’t a political gesture - England’s players cannot make that any clearer than they already have done. But for whatever reason white, middle-class men seem to reach immediately for the word ‘Marxism’ when they try to legitimise the reaction.

Some people seem unable, or unwilling, to appreciate it as a positive message, and that really is a shame.

The situation has already been a distraction and while I applaud those who tried to drown out the boos with applause of their own, we all know how that will be perceived if the same happens at Wembley before the Croatia game.