It is approaching the time when everybody begins to start speculating about who is going to be in England’s tournament squad and the excitement builds about our chances. Our success has been attached to Wayne Rooney since Euro 2004, and the expectation has engulfed him. He has failed to find the form he showed in that tournament since, and we have never looked likely to challenge the likes of Spain and Germany for major honours.
The Manchester United captain is going to be missing for the next month of action and that could be a good thing for both club and country. He has been a great player for United and England, but he is know becoming a burden on both, which results in players being moved out of position to accommodate the forward. Anthony Martial has been excellent this season, and he should be given a run down the middle, while Memphis Depay has barely been getting any action as Martial is being shunted out wide.
In England terms, Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane have been the best strikers this season, and should be played as a front two in France. However, it is extremely likely that one or both could find themselves out of the first eleven or being played out of position and that is disappointing for me as an England fan. This summer will be highly competitive and up to ten teams have a great chance of winning the competition if they hit form at the right time. England are one of these teams, but they can’t afford to handicap themselves by having Rooney as an automatic starter.
The England all-time top scorer had scored seven goals and got three assists in his last nine games before injury, which hinted that he was returning to his best form. There is no doubt Rooney’s qualities as a player and that he should be an important part of the squad for club and country. However, the way he plays the game means that he has to be the side’s focal point and needs all the plays to go through him and he can slow the game down too much at times. This has hindered Manchester United too much this season and it is more noticeable as he gets older. He can no longer cover every blade of grass and his contributions to the team are decreasing. England have two quality forwards in Kane and Vardy, both of whom would bounce off the other’s playing styles, with Vardy playing off the last man and Kane dropping into midfield. For that reason, the need to play Rooney is decreasing quickly.
This summer could be Roy Hodgson’s last tournament as England manager and he needs to treat it that way. He shouldn’t worry about the player’s egos and be focused too much on keeping the big names happy. Hodgson should go to France with the intention of attacking the tournament, and mix experience with players in form. Vardy and Kane have to be in the first eleven, and if that is to happen, Hodgson has to do the unthinkable and drop England captain Wayne Rooney. If he doesn’t, we won’t be contenders to win the tournament. If he does, I’m not saying we will win the Euros, but we just might….