My thoughts on: Wayne Rooney and England
On Friday night we saw England qualify for next summer’s European Championship finals in Poland and Ukraine due to a 2-2 draw in Montenegro. It was a strange game I thought. For the first 40 minutes England seemed to be relatively in control without playing particularly well, and thanks to taking their chances, had secured a two-goal lead.
Although Montenegro had shown signs of causing problems for the England defence and had reduced the deficit before half time, the sending off of Wayne Rooney could arguably be referred to as the catalyst for the sustained pressure Montenegro applied in search of the goal that would secure their play-off spot.
Rooney’s red card, in my opinion, is incontestable, despite Joe Hart’s protestations, and I think is an act of stupidity that he unfortunately remains capable of. It is debatable whether Rooney ought to have started considering the news regarding his father and uncle, and it is only speculation whether that was a contributory factor to his poor performance and ultimate sending off.
I thought Rooney was poor in the first half in Podgorica; his touch was unusually slack, his passing poor and I thought his general contribution was not equal to the level we would expect from a supposedly world-class player against this sort of opposition. I felt you could visibly see Rooney becoming increasingly more frustrated with his own performance and was surprised that Capello didn’t succumb to the urge to bring him off and move Ashley Young behind Darren Bent.
Rooney’s petulance could have had far more serious consequences if Montenegro were a slicker and better unit. The home side and the support were lifted by England’s reduction in personnel and I wonder what would have been the final outcome if they had managed to find the equaliser 5 or 10 minutes earlier? My gut feeling is that they may have gone on to get a third goal and England would have found themselves in the lottery of the play-offs, but I think more importantly raises a question over his temperament, an issue I think that many of us had thought he had learned to handle.
Rooney will get at least a one match ban and will miss England’s opening fixture next summer; it could be worse pending the referee’s match report. Capello has publicly stated that the Manchester Utd frontman will be omitted from the warm-up matches (well, at least the starting XI) as the England manager has now claimed he wants to “test new players, a different style and a new different movement”.
I applaud the decision to exclude Rooney from the build-up to the competition and I would urge Capello to consider why he hasn’t already considered an England team without him anyway? Amidst the adulation linked to the removal of the reliance on previous stalwarts such as Ferdinand and Lampard, Rooney appears to be immune to ‘the chop’ despite his recent record in an England shirt being relatively uninspiring.
Who is to replace Wayne Rooney though? Much will depend on how Capello wants England to play. Will he want to see Steven Gerrard returning from injury to play a more advanced role or will he opt to move Ashley Young inside (which may depend on the form of Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon)? We are led to believe that the forwards in with a chance of claiming a starting position are Darren Bent, Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch, Bobby Zamora, Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge; but what I don’t understand is why has it come to Wayne Rooney being suspended before Capello realises that you just cannot rely on one player and in the modern game, the era of the squad, alternatives need to always be considered.
This isn’t intended to be an opportunity to bash Wayne Rooney; I rate him very highly and I think it is clear that Manchester Utd function far better when he is playing. However, for England, I struggle to recount the number of games where Rooney has excelled and rather than react positively to having a ‘world class’ striker leading our nation’s line, I now feel that his inclusion is on name rather than merit.
Since the start of 2010, England have played 19 international fixtures (of which 7 have been friendlies) and have won 57.9% of them. The six draws and the opposition and circumstances that these have come in I think are a totally different discussion but if presented with the names of Montenegro, Algeria, USA, Ghana and Switzerland I would have expected more positive results from the English national team.
Wayne Rooney has played in 76.1% of the total game time during this period; and as England’s main striker I would have expected a better goal ratio than one every 433.7 minutes (or 4.8 games). Wayne Rooney has scored just 3 international goals in this time, which I think is quite a stark statistic, particularly if you take into account that two of these goals were scored in Bulgaria only last month.
Over this same period, Jermaine Defoe has been given 453 minutes in an England shirt, including 4 competitive starts, playing 26.5% of total available game time. Defoe scored in two of these games; a hat tick against Bulgaria at Wembley and the winning goal in England’s solitary win in South Africa in the World Cup. Defoe’s four goals however show a ratio of a goal every 113.3 minutes and is almost 4 times better than that of Rooney. The Tottenham forward has had periods of injury but has accumulated only 31 minutes of international football in the last nine England matches as Capello has sought a player to play alongside Rooney with Kevin Davies and Bobby Zamora amongst others to be given a taste of an opportunity.
Peter Crouch was once a maligned figure when representing England, but his 22 goals have over time meant he has been largely a mainstay of the national squad. Crouch’s last run-out was a 5 minute cameo in the 1-2 defeat to France in November 2010 on an evening when England looked embarrassingly second best; he scored. Other than 70 minutes in the previous game against Montenegro at Wembley, Crouch’s opportunities have been bit-part at best, with him accumulating just 17 minutes in total at the World Cup (which I think is remarkable!) and then a couple of halves against Mexico and Egypt as part of the build-up to that tournament. Crouch scored 3 goals in those two warm-up games which makes the fact he was given only 17 minutes against opposition such as Algeria, Slovenia and USA even more astonishing! Since March 2010, Peter Crouch has scored 4 goals whilst playing 10.8% of the total game time for England; that’s one goal every half and I think raises serious questions as to his under-usage in South Africa and to why he seems to have been cast aside so easily by Fabio Capello. I hope he begins to find the net regularly for Stoke City.
Darren Bent finally appears to be given opportunity and I am glad about that. I am a big supporter of Bent and I think far too often when people talk about him they refer to the negative things (his miss against Switzerland, his move from Sunderland to Aston Villa and Redknapp’s famous quote), rather than concentrate on his excellent goalscoring record. In the 12 games England played in 2010, Darren Bent played 75 minutes and scored one goal; the third in the 3-1 win in Switzerland. Since then, he has been involved in 4 of England’s subsequent nine matches, scoring 3 goals in the process. Similarly to Defoe and Crouch, statistically, Bent poses a much greater goal threat than Wayne Rooney as in the 409 minutes Darren Bent has played, he is managing a goal approximately every 100 minutes.
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