England’s defeat of Germany in Berlin on Saturday March 27th 2016 was no doubt one of the finest moments the nation has had in footballing terms for many years. It provided fans a welcome reminder that youth is the way forward on an international stage in this country – but that does not mean the experience of Wayne Rooney should be forgotten about.
The performances of some of the Three Lions key attacking threats during the defeat of Germany had raised the question as to whether Captain Rooney is worthy of a spot on the plane to France. It’s easy to forget the impact a player can have on a side when he’s injured, and after all the stats don’t lie, he’s the country’s all-time leading top goal scorer. It’s simple, some England fans have forgotten just what Rooney can bring to the team.
However, is Rooney good enough right now to be starting ahead of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy? The answer is no. Certainly not in attack, he’s shown for United he can be much more effective in central midfield.
Kane is a certainty to make the squad, with the Tottenham Hotspur striker the current Premier League top scorer on 21 goals and now scoring for his nation frequently. Vardy, too, is another nailed on striker to feature, with his 19 league goals helping unlikely Leicester lead the way at the top of the Premier League. Danny Welbeck has impressed for Arsenal since his return from a long-term injury, and has always been a top performer for England. His selection in the starting line-up against Germany would suggest he is favoured by England manager Roy Hodgson, and likely also to make cut, but should not be playing ahead of Kane or Vardy, likewise Rooney. The other option is Daniel Sturridge, but the decision surrounding the Liverpool striker relies on whether he can stay fit until the end of the season, which his injury record would suggest there’s little chance of that happening. If he’s fit, there’s no doubting he could be a huge player for England in France.
If Hodgson picks his squad for the opening match of the Euros against Russia on June 11th based on the form from the current season, then we have to see Kane and Vardy starting in attack. This is not Rooney’s fault at all, he has fallen unlucky to the form of two fellow strikers who are simply too emphatic going into the competition to ignore, and had he not suffered an injury it could have been a different story altogether, but Hodgson could find another position for him that suits his current style of play.
What I do strongly disagree with are the calls for Rooney to be kept back home when the players fly out. He’s the country’s captain, let’s not forget, and even if he is aging and edging closer to the end of his international career, his experience could be pivotal to aiding the younger players along the way and giving England a better chance of winning the competition.
30-year-old Rooney overtook Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 international goals during a 2-0 victory over Switzerland in a European qualifier at the back-end of 2015, but many did not give Rooney the necessary praise he warranted for scoring more goals than arguably England’s greatest ever player. Instead of praise, some thought to criticise the amount of goals Rooney had scored from the penalty spot, or offer rather nonsensical views that because he may not have been performing for Manchester United at that time, that he wasn’t worthy of taking Sir Bobby’s crown.
Before Rooney suffered his current knee injury during a Premier League encounter with Sunderland, the Manchester United forward had scored seven goals in his last nine appearances in all competitions, and scored seven goals in qualifying for the Euros in France, but that is still not enough for some.
Bringing the youth through is paying off dividends for Hodgson at present, with a collective amount of 161 caps shared between the players that featured in the Germany game, which when compared with the 472 apps of the reigning world champions, shows just how impressive the result was. Their scalp of France in a friendly back in November was a performance with similarities to the one in Berlin, with the only major difference being the progression of Eric Dier and Dele Alli since that game, with both coming on leaps and bounds over the course of the season. Alli was playing League One football in the 2014/15 season, showing how quickly he has risen to the top.
With John Stones, Ross Barkley, Dier, Alli, Kane, Sturridge and Vardy all in fine form for their domestic clubs, the optimism that surrounds the upcoming Euro’s is completely justified. But the wealth of experience that a player who has featured in as many international matches as Wayne Rooney has, should never be underestimated.