When Wayne Rooney leapt off the plane and scampered back into the England team hotel after a scan confirmed his broken foot had recovered sufficiently to take part in the 2006 World Cup, he memorably announced: "The big man's back in town!"
It was a snapshot of a confident young man relishing the chance to grapple with the biggest competition in football, but the cocky comment also betrayed the knowledge that England's hopes hinged on this somewhat unhinged young talent.
Five years later, England's reliance on Rooney is as strong as it ever has been since he burst on to the scene at Euro 2004, scoring four goals as an 18-year-old. That is why the nation has been plunged into panicked introspection following confirmation on Thursday that the striker will serve a three-match ban for kicking Montenegro defender Miodrag Dzudovic, ruling him out of the entire Euro 2012 group stage.
If the "big man" does return this time, England will have had to have made the quarter-finals, where they will inevitably lose on penalties, probably with Rooney self-imploding once again.
Rooney is said to be "shocked and disappointed" by the news, Capello "stunned", and with good reason. From an organisation that all too often responds to stands full of fans hurling racist abuse by dishing out insignificant and pointless fines, UEFA's three-game suspension seemed somewhat disproportionate, especially given the tournament itself lasts just six games.
After all, Early Doors suspects Rooney would be somewhat miffed if a petulant kick saw him miss half of the Premier League season - which, it should be noted, happens every year, not every four.
No doubt the FA will also heavily play up precedent in their inevitable appeal. Andrei Arshavin committed a near identical offence in Russia's final qualifier for Euro 2008 and only missed two games before going on to be arguably the player of the tournament.
Finally, when you factor in that Rooney has not received a red card in six years in European competition a three-game ban seems harsh, draconian even. It is hard not to feel a slice of sympathy.
On the other hand, kicking an opponent in full view of the referee is an immeasurably stupid thing to do. Rooney knew the rules, and he can hardly complain when he is punished to the full extent of them. The question now is how much will Rooney's absence, whether for three games or the entire tournament, impinge on England's chances of winning Euro 2012?
We got the Opta boffins to pull together some stats for us, and they make for interesting reading.
Firstly, they confirm suspicions that Euro 2004 aside, Rooney has been more of a hindrance than a help in major tournaments for England. He hasn't claimed a solitary goal or assist in his past two, while he was sent off in a quarter-final defeat to Portugal in the 2006 World Cup and then abused England fans watching on TV during the 2010 tournament.
Furthermore, a detailed analysis of England's record with and without the Manchester United striker reveals an interesting trend: the country's win record is more impressive when Rooney is kicking his heels on the sidelines.
So, according to the stats, England could well benefit from leaving Rooney at home following his ban. Mind you, according to stats, air travel is far safer than getting the train, but that doesn't stop ED freaking out at the notion of being encased in a flying tin can 40,000 feet in the air, while painted-up air stewardesses try to foist a packet of pretzels on it. Oh for the quiet anonymity of the 06.58 to Feltham.
Despite what the numbers tell us, there is something less tangible, less open to statistical analysis that tugs on us here: the suspicion that, Ashley Cole aside, Rooney is England's only world class player. Though he hasn't had a decent major tournament since 2004 - and at times could have been auditioning for the running joke that is England rugby squad in that regard - if England do make the quarter-finals they will go no further if Rooney is not in their ranks.
If they face the far superior Germany or Netherlands - or indeed Spain, who play football from another dimension to England - they will go no further either way, but at least with Rooney they would have an incrementally better chance of springing a shock.
It is not even as though it would be particularly hard to fit him in. From the 24-man squad picked to face Montenegro, who would miss Bobby Zamora or Andy Carroll? Phil Jones and Chris Smalling could also cover multiple positions. It will hardly take a ruthless purge of Stalinist proportions to squeeze Rooney in.
England have only one truly outstanding attacker and it would be ludicrous not to include him in the travelling party. Cold, hard stats may suggest otherwise, but gut instinct hints at another thing entirely.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Kenny is certainly charismatic and beloved by the fans. I wasn't convinced when we arrived that Kenny should be back managing and I wanted things to work with the manager we inherited. But the fans knew much more than I did. It took me a while to get up to speed." - John W Henry admits he wanted to stick with Roy Hodgson and ignore King Kenny's claims to the manager's position when he first arrived at Liverpool.
FOREIGN VIEW: "What I most love about writing is the process of preparing for it. The novel's plot reflects my passions, the everyday things I like. It helps me to relax and between pages I might think of a way to stop Cristiano Ronaldo." - Real Betis boss Pepe Mel reveals his secret passion: writing mystery novels. The first is called 'The Liar', recounting the adventures of a millionaire antiques dealer who runs into trouble with the Vatican. ED can't imagine Paul Lambert doing something similar.
COMING UP: Jim White and Paul Parker file their latest columns ahead of the weekend, while we will conduct another Fantasy chat to mull over any potential signings you may have in mind after the international break.