Welcome to another Virgin Media Midweek Kick-off. There are just over 10 weeks to go until Euro 2016 and Wayne Rooney remains out injured. With a host of starlets waiting in the wings, we ask football writers Jim Butler and Neil Queen-Jones whether Roy Hodgson should do the previously unthinkable and drop his skipper…
Yes, Rooney should be dropped
“His explosive pace has gone and his control is beginning to betray him” – Jim Butler, sports writer, Virgin Media
Roy has better options
Sven-Göran Eriksson and Fabio Capello indulged a half-fit Rooney because, quite frankly, who else were they going to pick? Darius Vassell? Emile Heskey? David Nugent? England needed Rooney back then. Going into this year’s tournament, Roy Hodgson has a surfeit of attacking talent at his disposal, with Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy firing on all cylinders and Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck fit again.
He’s not the player he was
Rooney’s been playing at the sharp end of the most competitive league in the world for the last 14 years. His body sports the telltale traces of such commitment. The explosive pace has gone and his control, once as deft as a ballerina, is beginning to betray him.
Another tournament, another injury
Rooney’s habit of picking up a knock in the months leading up to a major tournament has reared its ugly head again. In the run-up to World Cup 2006, it was his foot. And prior to World Cup 2010, it was his ankle. This time, it is his knee. Although he should be off the treatment table by June, he’s always been someone who needs plenty of game time to get up to speed. With no date set for his return, there is a big question mark over whether he’ll be match fit in time.
He can make an impression off the bench
By all means take him to France. Just use him as an impact sub rather than the team’s attacking focal point. Yes, Rooney still has an aura, but the prolific Harry Kane deserves his chance to lead England’s line. Jamie Vardy offers a different, quicker and more direct, option. And Danny Welbeck scored six goals in five qualifying matches.
Inspirational skipper? Not really.
Let’s face facts. On the field, Wazza has never been an all-action skipper in the mould of Bryan Robson. Impressive speeches to his Manchester United troops before a game at Anfield last season and their recent derby win over Man City show that he is becoming a more motivational presence in the dressing room, but this isn’t a strong enough reason for him to remain national team captain. Pick him in the squad, ask him to do the pre-match speech and give the on-field armband to Joe Hart.
No, he should start
“No-one in the current squad is in Rooney’s postcode in terms of medals on the table” – Neil Queen-Jones, Match of the Day magazine
He keeps proving his doubters wrong
Writing off Rooney has become a sport in itself, and it always ends with him shutting down the naysayers. Paul Scholes said he should be dropped ahead of the 2014 World Cup; Wazza responded by being involved in 100 per cent of England’s goals in Brazil (all two of them). It’s been the same this season: after being dropped by Louis van Gaal in December, he bounced back by scoring seven and setting up three more in eight games for Manchester United.
He has European experience
People are itching to bin Rooney because there’s a rash of in-form young strikers lining up to take his spot. The problem is, although Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy are vying to become the first English winner of the Barclays Premier League Golden Boot since Kevin Phillips in 2000, neither has any experience of dealing with savvy European defences.
Have you checked his England form recently?
Although his England career lacks the desktop-wallpaper moments of Sir Bobby Charlton, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker, he didn’t get his record-breaking 51 goals off eBay on the cheap. His goal rate for England since 2013 averages at six a year – which is higher than at any other point in his international career.
Or his goals per game record at Euro 2004 and 2012?
People who claim Wazza doesn’t perform at big finals clearly can’t recall Portugal in the summer of 2004. A dozen years ago, an 18-year-old Rooney burst onto the international scene with four goals in England’s four Euro 2004 matches. Add this to a goal at Euro 2012 and his record in the finals of Europe’s premier international football competition reads: played six games, scored five goals. Why would you drop a striker with a record like that?
Who you gonna give the captain’s armband to?
There’s no argument about the level of talent in the squad, but in terms of rolled-up sleeves, fighting-in-the-trenches bulldog spirit, we’re somewhat lacking. With Frank Lampard and John Terry set to spend the summer idly placing Albania full-backs in a Euro 2016 sticker album, no-one in the current squad is in Rooney’s postcode in terms of experience or medals on the table.
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