Mixed results for the England camp over the past two games have meant that a startling revelation has come to light… England do not need Wayne Rooney.
Although the 109-cap Manchester United star is the current national team captain, going by the past two performances, it looks as though the team has moved on.
Not taking Rooney didn’t seem to be something that Hodgson had to think about a few weeks ago, as it would have appeared to be a no-brainer to ‘get him on that plane’. The current England squad contains eight players with fewer than 10 caps, while Rooney has over 100 international appearances to his name and has represented England at five major tournaments.
As long as he’s fit, why would you not take Rooney? Like Joe Hart and Gary Cahill, Rooney has a vast level of experience with which to help the younger and newer players in the squad, and his influence is still considerable.
“Wayne is the captain, he leads the side,” Ross Barkley said. “He has the experience and he passes it on to the younger lads in the side. He helps us younger lads with the experience he has had in the past tournaments and qualifying stages.”
Rooney is likely to have less than a month to prove his fitness to Roy Hodgson with the England captain targeting Manchester United’s game against Aston Villa a fortnight on Saturday as his comeback from injury.
The Red Devils skipper has been out of action since damaging ligaments in his right knee in the 2-1 defeat at Sunderland on Feb 13th, and his place in England’s starting XI is under growing threat from Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.
Rooney faced the threat of an even more severe injury that would have ruled him out of the European Championship finals altogether after being instructed by his Man United manager, Louis van Gaal, to play through the pain against Sunderland. Such a lay-off would, in addition to ruling him out of the EUROs, also have prohibited Rooney’s involvement in a planned testimonial at Old Trafford on Aug 3rd, which will raise money for a host of charities, and force him to miss the opening months of next season.
Hodgson is due to name his squad for the tournament in France this summer on May 12th, which would give Rooney just five games for Man United, excluding a potential FA Cup semi-final against Everton on April 23rd, to demonstrate his fitness to the England manager if he indeed returns on time.
England have two more friendlies before the submission deadline, with matches against Turkey on May 22nd and Australia five days later, and with Kane and Vardy both scoring for fun and the return of Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge, Hodgson has viable alternatives.
Rooney has traditionally taken considerable time to get back up to speed after lengthy absences and Hodgson has insisted that the 30-year-old will not be selected solely on reputation, despite being the country’s skipper and all-time leading goalscorer.
Rooney has insisted he is not finished yet in an England shirt and is desperate to “contribute and score goals” in France in the summer.
“Obviously it is great that I can be a part of that and it is an opportunity for us to do really well this summer and obviously the decision is down to Roy Hodgson but I want to be there and be involved and help and lead this team to being successful.”
For all of the arguments that he should go to the finals, there are an equal quantity of those against the idea. His poor form all season is a concern, and so is his appalling record in tournaments.
The England forward line is full of spark, running and creativity, and more importantly England can score goals without their captain. Rooney needs to catch up, but even if he does go the the finals, this will probably be his swansong and if he is honest with himself, he may as well retire soon after EURO 2016 anyway.
Equally there’s nowhere else for Rooney to play either. Ross Barkley and Dele Alli both take the alternative ‘No.10’ role with ease, so it seems as though the international scene will become a memory for Rooney in the future.
Time has moved on and won’t go back and as Rooney gets older, younger players will emerge and continue to grow in the white shirt of England.