There's something about a World Cup that always ends with somebody cast as the scapegoat. David Beckham in 1998, David Seaman and/or Beckham in 2002, Wayne Rooney in 2006.
And it is not only in football. When England's rugby union side last year produced the most dismal display ever by a host nation, Sam Burgess was the one who carried the can.
Fast tracked from Rugby League by Stuart Lancaster, who didn't know where to play him or how to handle him, Burgess was held up as a symbol of everything that went wrong in a disastrous campaign. For the Twickenham toffs he was "not one of us", and his return to the 13-man code when he signed for South Sydney was celebrated.
Fast forward a year and Burgess is back in an England shirt again, but this time with the chance to be the hero, made captain of the side that begins the Four Nations tournament against New Zealand on Saturday in front of a sold-out John Smith's Stadium in Huddersfield.
World champions Australia are inevitably the 1.625/8 favourites to be the Four Nations winners but Burgess is a symbol of a new and stronger England side which could give them a run for their money.
There is a greater depth to this squad, with Burgess one of seven players who now ply their club trade Down Under in the fierce environment of the NRL - and they are led by an Aussie in Wayne Bennett who is the most successful coach in the sport's history.
Bennett, 66, has an unparalleled record that goes back to when he took his first coaching job 40 years ago, and has been the magnet to persuade the Australian-based players to fly across the world to make themselves available for this tournament. Just as Eddie Jones galvanised the union squad, so the RFL bosses believe Bennett can have the same effect on players who can demonstrate the growing strength of Super League.
On the horizon for all of them is the next Rugby League World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand in a year's time, and this is a crucial stage of getting an England side into shape.
Neither Burgess nor England's other big star Sam Tomkins were involved last weekend as Bennett's team warmed up with a comprehensive 40-6 thrashing of France in Avignon, but will be central to Saturday's opening clash.
New Zealand as Four Nations holders will start the game as marginal favourites, but are themselves in a transitional phase having lost four of their last five games, and with a new and relatively inexperienced coach in David Kidwell in charge. They lost 26-6 to Australia in Perth last weekend.
If Burgess looked like a fish out of water in last year's union World Cup campaign, he is back in his proper environment now. Doing a round of interviews yesterday he sounded confident and composed, and a man with a point to prove. England's loss in one code will be their gain in another.