The early evening chill will have descended in Montenegro by the time Wayne Rooney, flanked by his national team-mates, trots out on to the patchy turf at a cramped Podgorica City Stadium and returns to the scene of the crime.
England will undertake their training drills on Monday before an awkward collision with the Group H leaders, minds focusing on the daunting task to come on Tuesday.
"Wayne's played so many games, he's so experienced, I'm sure he's capable of writing off the incident," Roy Hodgson said last week. "He's paid his price. I'd like to think he'd forget all about it." Yet, on some level, memories of frayed tempers and red cards will flare.
"Crime" is, of course, far too strong a word to attach to the petulant swipe Rooney aimed at Miodrag Dzudovic the last time he played here, back in October 2011. The Manchester United forward, starved of possession as Fabio Capello's England sensed the creeping erosion of their early dominance and comfortable lead, had miscontrolled near the touchline inside the Montenegro half and frustration overcame him as the home side's centre-back nipped in to shield the ball. His access blocked, Rooney bounced off his opponent before swinging a right boot in anger, connecting with Dzudovic's right calf.
The defender's reaction was comically dramatic but the offence was clear and, by his expression of guilt, acknowledged by the perpetrator.
Rooney's had been a lonely walk of shame across the pitch to the farthest corner of the ground, a trudge that took him past the crammed mass of England fans as he approached the mouth of the tunnel. Some supporters had bellowed his name, prompting a sheepish glance up and apologetic clap of the hands, before he bowed his head again and disappeared from sight. Others, fuming in the away contingent, recognised the ramifications.
It would take a personal appearance at Uefa's headquarters in Nyon almost two months later, alongside Capello, a bank of lawyers and Football Association officials, to have the initial three-match ban reduced to two and effectively ensure some involvement at Euro 2012. When he did appear in Ukraine for the final group game and England's quarter-final, he was rusty, blunted by five weeks without a competitive start. The suspension, even reduced, had still wrecked his summer.
There were some mitigating circumstances for the second red card of Rooney's England career. His dark mood was not purely born of a lack of decent delivery or involvement that evening in Podgorica. His mind must have been frazzled by the arrest of his father on the day before the game in a probe into alleged betting irregularities, for which he was eventually cleared.
"But even now, I can't explain it," he would reflect in Krakow over the summer. "It's not something I set out to do. I didn't think: 'Right, I'm going to kick this player.' It just happened. I understood straight away it was a mistake." Hodgson and Rooney's colleagues have pointed to the striker's greater maturity since that sending off. After all he was booked only once after Podgorica in the 2011-12 season, for a foul on Swansea's Leon Britton in May, and has accrued only six yellows to date this term (albeit four in eight games either side of new year). None has been for England.
But Montenegro will still sense an opportunity. They have rattled Rooney once before and will know they can do so again. "I don't hold a grudge against him but I will not be worried about going in hard, but fair, on him," said Dzudovic, now in the Russian second division with Spartak Nalchik and an unused substitute in Friday's narrow win in Moldova. "He was not trying to hurt me. It was just a moment of weakness on the pitch, something anyone could have."
The 33-year-old may start in the absence of the suspended Savo Pavicevic and Milorad Pekovic. Regardless, England, even with only a handful of survivors from that night 18 months ago – Rooney, Ashley Cole and Joe Hart were starters, as were Ashley Young and Scott Parker – know what is coming.
"Sometimes they kick, niggle, time-waste … anything to try and frustrate you," said Joleon Lescott. "We're all old enough to realise there'll be issues, that they'll try and wind us up, but I'd like to think we are all mature enough to deal with that. There will be a lot of expectation on Wayne but, knowing him, I don't think he will let that faze him in any way. I don't think he will be drawing on any negativity from previous performances. He will just be focused on producing the goods.
"Maybe, when he was younger, he had a bit more of a temper on him. But he's older, he's experienced in every situation. They might play on his temperament, but Wayne has matured now. I am sure he will be professional enough to deal with anything they throw at him. He believes in his own ability more than anyone so he won't feel he has a point to prove. He'll just be determined to win the game for us. If they try [to provoke him] the 'backlash' could be just that: on his day, Wayne is one of the best in the world so I doubt they will try to enhance his performance."
Rooney has relished returns to scenes of former misdemeanours before. Five years after tangling with, then stamping on, Ricardo Carvalho during England's World Cup quarter-final with Portugal in Gelsenkirchen, Rooney thrived and scored for United in a 2-0 Champions League semi-final victory over Schalke victory over Schalke in April 2011. His pass for Ryan Giggs's opening goal that night was breathtaking, slicing apart the Germans' rearguard. His burst on to Javier Hernández's pass and finish beyond Manuel Neuer for the visitors' second was a reminder of his qualities when he is not raging against the world.
It will be as much up to England to ensure the 27-year-old does not become isolated and riled again. The visitors had edged back into their shells two years ago, cowed by conceding the goal on the stroke of half-time that halved their lead. Passes meant for Rooney, playing off Darren Bent, were pinged at him from distance by a defence in retreat.
"We can't let our striker become isolated," said Tom Cleverley, a permanent presence in Hodgson's selections this season who may operate closest to his Old Trafford team-mate playing the lone forward role. "But I'm sure there are plenty of legs in whoever plays in midfield or in the wide areas to support our front men. But Wayne's strong. He's a born winner and a good character to have for club and country."
He can demonstrate that on Tuesday night. Next week will mark a decade since Rooney's first start for his country, an eye-catching display in a combustible atmosphere at Sunderland's Stadium of Light as Turkey were beaten 2-0. The striker now has 80 caps and 34 goals but it says much about the enigma he remains that those two red cards still draw so much of the attention.
Muster a good performance in Podgorica and he can help wrest back control of the group to edge England closer to a World Cup in Brazil. This can be an exorcism of sorts.
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image: © jubei kibagami