England coach Steve McClaren insists he does not feel let down by his players despite their largely miserable performance in the 1-0 defeat to Spain at Old Trafford last night.
Aside from effective displays by returning duo Kieron Dyer and Jonathan Woodgate, plus Steven Gerrard, who only lasted 45 minutes, there were few positives to take out of a game which ended with the home side being booed off after Andres Iniesta had blasted home a second-half winner.
After a four-game winless streak that has produced just a single goal, there certainly appears little room for optimism ahead of next month’s must-not-lose qualifier in Israel.
However, despite a series of below-par displays from key men, McClaren refused to pin the blame for England’s first home loss since November 2003 on his players.
"I don’t feel the players are letting me down," he said.
"The attitude and effort was there. It was the quality we lacked, especially in the final third.
"Nobody is blind to the fact we lacked that final pass and cross and finish. That is what wins you football matches."
Although Michael Carrick tested Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas with one early effort, England barely created a chance of note, badly missing absent striker Wayne Rooney, who pulled out with an ankle injury.
Peter Crouch and Shaun Wright-Phillips were particularly unimpressive, while the game seemed to pass Frank Lampard by with barely a flicker.
"There were a few performances which weren’t up to their usual standards," said McClaren.
"That is the disappointing aspect of this performance. The players know that and it will be made clear."
McClaren cited the absence of six key men as a major factor in his side’s lack of cohesion.
However, with Ashley Cole and Joe Cole sidelined with long-term injuries, the best England can hope for is to have Rooney, Owen Hargreaves, Aaron Lennon and skipper John Terry back for the trip to Tel Aviv when defeat will virtually end any hope of reaching Euro 2008.
"Obviously, it is disappointing to lose," said McClaren. "I can understand the reaction of the fans because we don’t like losing, especially because this is our last game at Old Trafford.
"We generally have a good record here but we have finished on a low. We know that.
"We knew it was going to be a hard game and we lost it."