Having spent Saturday evening listening to BBC Radio 5 live, I was absolutely astounded to be hearing ludicrous comments regarding the immediate international future of Manchester United and England skipper, Wayne Rooney.
The comments mainly consisted of English ‘fans’ who phoned in to voice their disbelief that Rooney not only remained captain for his country, but was even still playing for England. Supporters claimed that Rooney’s record, 46 goals in 101 international appearances, was well below what they expect, and that ‘Greaves and Charlton would have double that if they were still playing’. Now this fan clearly doesn’t believe that football has changed in the past fifty years, but by claiming that Rooney should put 5 goals a game past teams such as San Marino and Slovenia every match is quite a bold statement to make.
Don’t get me wrong, I do feel that Rooney has gone missing at major tournaments all too often. His record for a player who, in previous years, fell in to the world class criteria quite frankly isn’t good enough, and the promising signs of Euro 2004 have disappeared from everyone’s hopes of Rooney, one goal in eleven World Cup appearances is clearly not good enough. This, accompanied by stupid behaviour (2006 vs Portugal), and far from convincing performances during the 2015 World Cup has quite rightly led to people doubting whether Rooney is cut out to play at the highest international level, and with Hodgson clearly aiming to build for future World Cups the questions surrounding Rooney’s role within the set up seem to come around every international squad announcement.
However, Rooney’s presence within the England squad is vital to our hopes, not just now, but for the future and development of the current crop of young players we have, and it’s about time that English fans realised this. Not only has Rooney scored 6 goals in his last 6 English appearances, but he has proved to Hodgson and club manager Louis van Gaal alike that he is willing to give everything he has to help benefit the team, Rooney is a team player!
His role within the Manchester United squad this year proves his importance, with Rooney being deployed deeper than he would prefer and still producing gritty performances which emphasise his willingness to fight for everything, something every team needs.
As well as his grit, determination and battle, which is a mentality that will never leave him, Rooney’s experience will prove extremely important for the development of the younger English talent in each squad. Surprisingly for me, Rooney has already turned 29 and is no longer a spring chicken. It seems his career has flashed by and all the promise that was on show in Euro 2004 has never fully been fulfilled, but despite this, Rooney has still been a winner during his career, and his five Premier league medals and a Champions league winner’s medal shows this. The common attitude shared amongst most within the football world is that you must combine the young blood in your team with proven experience, players that will help them through the tough away days in Switzerland (yes, they really are ‘tough’ now), and take the limelight away from them on those dark days in Brazil, which it has to be said happened through the torrents of abuse directed towards Rooney. With players like Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Harry Kane (hopefully) all coming to the forefront of English plans in the near future, their lack of international - even big game in some cases - experience could prove costly to English hopes. Granted, the qualifying group we have is a good place to start playing these players, but if you play them all around Rooney then a combination of experience and youth would be extremely beneficial and quite frankly exciting to watch.
While it is clear Rooney’s experience is vital, that doesn't mean that is the only reason I believe he should be in and captaining the squad. I feel that Rooney is still simply the best player to be named in the England squad. People may question this, but Rooney is the only player we have playing now that has been a constant at the highest level for the past decade. Rooney is still scoring goals, still creating chances, and still performing at a high level for one of the biggest clubs in the country, a club where a different mentality is instilled compared to clubs such as Everton, no disrespect intended. People seem content on arguing that Everton’s Ross Barkley deserves the number ten role ahead of Rooney, but while Barkley has talent in abundance, his consistency has been far from convincing, and his progression has seemed to falter a fraction this season with Everton. The same goes for Liverpool’s Adam Lallana, whose ability too is clear to see, but he has not produced his best on a week in week out basis since his big money move to Liverpool - or in an England shirt for that matter. This is not me saying that Rooney has been consistently brilliant this season, but in a big game who would you turn to out of those three?
These are a mere few players that England could have playing in this role or in a specific formation, but I think Darren Fletcher’s point bares a very important one. In his phone in show 606, Fletcher claimed that Rooney’s record of 46 goals in 101 games is not too dissimilar to Messi’s of 45 goals in 95 games. Messi has arguably not produced the same goal scoring record of which he has for Barcelona, but Messi’s importance to the Argentinian team has not been scrutinised to the level that Rooney’s has for England.
Maybe it’s about time England fans get behind our captain and embrace the fact that the days of Charlton and Greaves scoring goals for fun for the Three Lions are gone, for now, and that Rooney really is the best player we have in our midst.
By Fraser Moran - Bristol City fan - @