When you watch him go about his duties you can understand why the FA appointed Roy Hodgson as England coach. He is calm, diplomatic, professional. There are no skeletons rattling around in his cupboards, the players like him, this is the very living embodiment of a safe pair of hands.
In every way he has been an understandable choice as the country’s most visible coach. Except, after last night’s World Cup qualifier, you can’t help wondering this about him: what on earth does he say at half-time?
We can make a pretty accurate guess at what his counterpart said. Montenegro were so poor in the first half, so defensively frail, so limited in possession, so lacking in the kind of spirit that was oozing from the stands, Branko Brnovic, the team manager, would not have been short of material in the changing room.
Presumably he borrowed a couple of the flares that were ready to be lit in the home sections of the crowd and inserted them where necessary. Whatever it was he said worked. Montenegro came out for the second half as if rocket-propelled.
Tactically, he shifted his team around, pushed his midfield wide to stall the progress of the English full backs and gave Mirko Vucinic a bit of support in his lonely task up front. His substitution, bringing on Dejan Damjanovic to exploit England’s increasingly nervous defending, proved a master stroke when the FC Seoul forward scrambled in the equaliser.
England, by contrast, went into the dressing room so superior you really wondered what all the fuss about this Montenegro side was based on. Was this really the best team in the group? How bad must the others be if this lot – so easily bossed by England – were sitting at the top?
But when they came out for the second half, England too were transformed. Glen Johnson, for instance, looked as if he had taken a couple of fast-acting sleeping pills, while Tom Cleverley, who had been everywhere in the final 10 minutes of the first period, suddenly did a very convincing impression of the invisible man.
What on earth happened in that dressing room? What went on to turn the performance from convincing to abject? Was there something in the tea?
In many ways, as a coach, it is easier to motivate when things are going badly. That is not to suggest that Vincente Del Bosque has the hardest job in world football. But Brnovic could immediately recognise that he had a problem and he could act accordingly.
What could Hodgson say by contrast? Henry V grandstanding would have seemed bizarre. Yet "it’s all going fine, lads, keep doing what you’re doing", is not the most inspiring of instructions.
The great half time speeches that football history has recorded were delivered from a point of seeming hopelessness. Alex Ferguson at the Camp Nou in 1999 asking his players if they really wanted to go home without the European Cup having got so close to touching it.
Or Martin Keown at Highbury in 2004, when the Arsenal, having lost in the FA Cup and Champions League in successive matches, were losing to Liverpool and looked to be throwing away their Invincible tag. Keown, the substitute, stood up and delivered an impassioned call to arms that inspired his team mates to come back and win.
Or there’s Brian Clough, when Forest were two down at half-time, who didn’t even come into the dressing room, but left the players to stew and then, just as they were about to head out for the second period, stuck his head round the door and simply said: "sorry, lads, my fault: I picked the wrong team." Boy, did that motivate his charges to prove him wrong.
Hodgson, on the other hand, was able only to reflect on a half which had accomplished everything that was intended. In control away from home: what more could he ask for? Another goal might have been nice, and doubtless he sent his players out with the suggestion that safety lay in a second. More of the same please: it would have been the only logical thing to say.
He will have learned from last night, with England, that is not enough. Hodgson is not the sort of manager who can employ Clough-style psychological tricks. His players wouldn’t buy it.
But there are other lessons he will have absorbed; it is not just to do with verbals. Like, with your team wilting, get the subs on. Waiting until the opposition has scored was too late last night. It was evident to any sentient being that what England needed was an injection of vitality and pace.
If words weren’t going to rev them up, then a change of personnel was a minimum requirement. As Jose Mourinho always says: give the opposition something to think about. If they have solved the problem you confront them with, change it. Hodgson surely now knows he can’t wait so long to act again.
Luckily for him, the England manager still has the opportunity to put the harsh lessons of last night into action. The remaining fixture list is not overwhelming, the difficult ties are all at home. But his margin for error has now disappeared.
He knows another 45 minutes like the second half in Podgorica and England’s can start to make holiday plans for June next year. Because they won’t be going to Brazil.