I was singing for England alone, in a dark quiet room ...

It wasn't pretty, but we're through, that's the main thing. There have not been many positives to take out of England's displays in the group stages, but there were clearly signs of improvement in the nail-biter against Slovenia on Wednesday.

The early goal from Jermain Defoe helped calm the nerves of a nation on a knife-edge. Superstition prevented me from watching the game with my work colleagues.

Desperate times called for desperate measures and I had to watch the game on my own in a dark quiet room. I feared the worst when the half time whistle was greeted by old patriotic dukebox favourites including It's Coming Home as the team had only done half the job.

Bar a couple of scares in the second half, England were on top and only poor finishing prevented it from being more comfortable. I'm glad that Matthew Upson proved many people, including myself wrong, and am glad that manager Fabio Capello opted to start with James Milner and Defoe. Having shown John Terry that he's the boss in the run-up to the game, he was also right to take off an out-of-sort Wayne Rooney, even if he did bring on Emile Heskey.

With a few days to recover, we have to go through it all over again.

● I know that it's far too early to judge Luis Fernandez, the new Israel manager, but the IFA should take note of the performance of Argentina boss Diego Maradona at the World Cup. The IFA turned down Eyal Berkovic's application for the national post as they felt that he was under-qualified and too inexperienced. But like Maradona, he can arguably lay claim to being the country's best player of all time.

It's fair to say that the similarities stop there but it's clear that despite what the press may think of him, he is worshipped by his squad. The touching kisses before and after games and male bonding at every opportunity show that he is No. 1. Raymond Domenech take note!

Berkovic was the nation's choice to replace Dror Kashtan. In the end the IFA went down the same route at the English FA in appointing a foreign manager. Should Fernandez fail to steer Israel into the 2012 European Championships, Israel could do worse than appoint Berkovic who, as well as being passionate about the job, might well be the man with the midas touch.

● The Jewish world of sport is morning the loss of Sam Latter. The former Maccabi Scotland passed away peacefully aged 106. Born in the Glasgow Gorbals in 1904, Sam's footballing skills saw him sign professional forms for Third Lanark, making his debut in 1928.After marrying Edinburgh lass Flora Stratchan, the central defender retired from the game in 1932. Paying tribute to a dear friend, Tony Sheldon said: "Sam died hours before the World Cup match between England at the USA. Perhaps he knew more than we did!" A full obituary will appear in the JC soon.

● Robert Silverman, the former Brixton Old Boys manager, has taken charge at Team JLGB. The team is in need of a goalkeeper for the new season. For details, email: teamjlgb@hotmail.co.uk.

    Last updated: 2:30pm, June 24 2010