After another really worthwhile international break, during which England played two friendly games at Wembley, several issues came to light – pre match the English media were claiming we didn’t have a hope in hell of beating Spain. Post-match Sky Sports and expert pundit the wally with a brolly Steve Mcclaren were telling us that we were in with an excellent chance of winning the whole tournament this summer, and after the game last night it became clear that the only thing worse than getting hammered in those games was winning both as the ridiculous post match analysis is showing.
However, more worrying than all of this is the so called ‘support cast’ for Wayne Rooney up front. By now the world and its wife are aware that the big bad FIFA have banned Rooney for the opening stages of the tournament in the summer, and England must now find a way to navigate the group and score goals without him. It’s not that we don’t have options, it’s just that they aren’t very good.
Capello has the choice of going with an older and supposedly more experienced player, such as Darren Bent, or Peter Crouch, even Bobby Zamora, but are these really top class strikers who should be playing for the national side? None of the above strikers play for a so called ‘top club’ with both Crouch and Bent having been tried at international level on multiple occasions, with both coming up short. Andy Carroll cannot even start for Liverpool, and is not really tried and tested at International level.
There is the option of going for youth, with both Daniels – Welbeck and Sturridge impressing for their clubs and the England youth teams in the past – however they still lack experience at the very top level and it is more than reasonable to question if they could really take the pressure heaped on England at an International tournament. Both are in form at the minute and playing well for their clubs but it is just as feasible for them to have a long spell on the bench due to the competition for places at their respective clubs.
One thing that can be said about the young boys is that despite their experience at the very top level of international football, they are both comfortable playing in the Champions league – a competition that is arguably at a higher standard than the group stages of an International tournament.
An option that people seem to forget about to replace Wayne Rooney in the group stages is that of Jermain Defoe. Say what you will about the player, but in Defoe you get not only a proven goal scorer but also someone that has experience at the highest level of football and has shown he can deal with the pressures and expectations of playing for England.
Yes, none of these players are Wayne Rooney, but dwelling on his absence for any longer will have a greater effect on the team in a negative sense and will only hamper the prospects of England.
If you look at the top international teams – take Spain for instance – if you take out David Villa or even Negredo or Torres, it obviously matters, but then you look at the players they have in the middle of their park – Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets – far, far more quality than England have.
Whilst it is the job of the chosen striker to get the majority of the goals, there has to be a contribution from elsewhere in the team, and England struggle with this. There is no really special player in the England side, who can make the difference in the tight games, and perhaps it is time, as Gary Neville has suggested, to start bringing through the younger generation in order to eventually win an International tournament – Walker and Rodwell showed last night England’s younger generation have more than a bit of talent between them.
Yes omitting players such as John Terry or Lampard may not be the way forward for everyone, but had Aragones not left Raul out of the Spanish squad before Euro 2008 and effectively changed the whole mentality of the squad, they could well still be waiting to win a trophy.
When England inevitably falter at the Euro’s, blame will be levelled at many factors, and should they fail to make it out of the group, whoever is chosen to replace Rooney will be the national scape goat, or perhaps it will be the referee, whatever the case, it is not the fact we are without a world class candidate to replace Rooney that will see us fail yet again.
It is the entire mentality of the squad, manager – who has kept his promise to pick players on form about as well as Kim Kardashian kept her marriage vows– the media and their hype and the fans.
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