It really shouldn’t have been that surprising when Wayne Rooney netted twice and assisted in another (forgetting completely the early own goal) in Manchester United’s home win against Stoke. After all, were we really expecting the player to carry on in the same manner as the abject display for England against Poland? The attacking support cast is arguably of better quality at United, while the burden to get the goals certainly doesn’t weigh as heavy at Old Trafford as it does on international duty.
Rooney’s display on the weekend should be an indictment of the state of England’s national team: the short of it is that England aren’t as good as FIFA say they are. We’ve been over how good or poor Rooney has been in recent months for his club; the presence of Robin van Persie was sure to spark some sort of reaction, whether negative or positive. But we should also look to the argument again as to why England’s players can’t raise the game for their national team in the same way they do for their clubs.
It should be easy to come to a conclusion: England’s players are not all that great, but when paired with the players of other nations at club level, their very best qualities shine through. We can’t simply blame things such as ProPlus or the lack of a real high quality striker, or even that old argument of whether Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can play centrally together. However, the whole issue starts to complicate itself when you look at how players such as Gerrard, Rooney, Ashley Cole etc are admired as some of the very best in Europe. Joe Hart is apparently the best goalkeeper in the world, although I’m extremely confident that the majority of those sending out such high praise have never watched a club from the continent with any real interest beyond a Champions League game.
So what’s the problem? England do have good players, but apparently they can’t all play together effectively and to the level that we often see in the Premier League. Maybe the England manager and his predecessors are not all that great. No, that would be too easy. And the idea of dismissing such a decorated manager as Fabio Capello is nonsensical.
Maybe they just don’t care. Maybe England’s players are so beyond any belief of victory on the international stage that they’ve just given up and thus display it through their performances. What about pride and the line we always hear about the joy of representing your country? We hardly see it. There’s nothing to be proud of from the way England’s inflated egos couldn’t muster an attack of any threatening nature against Poland.
And it’s not just limited to the delayed game in Poland, either. The 2010 World Cup was disastrous, the qualifying campaign for the last European Championship saw the national side playing with fire, and will England ever win a penalty shootout? The win against San Marino was a throwaway match that never should have happened anyway.
But these are English players who have won Premier League titles in impressive fashion, as well as Champions League medals, domestic cups and so on. We can’t really deflect the praise away from them and solely onto their team mates. John Terry is so often talked up as one of England’s finest defenders and leaders, and how central were his and Frank Lampard’s roles in the winning days of Jose Mourinho?
Joleon Lescott has been largely excellent for Manchester City over the past 12 months, while Phil Jagielka was heroic in that Everton win against United at Goodison Park at the start of the season.
Rooney’s performance for United against Stoke was symbolic of what it means to play for England and equally the quality England have in their ranks. These are veterans of the game; Rooney has just celebrated 10 years in the Premier League and is still not really in his prime. If England’s senior players have such a problem with the system that has been used by England managers over the years then why not speak up and make useful suggestions that would benefit and suit all the players? Although, you then go full circle and come to the realisation that a whole hat full of managers can’t be wrong.