Goal feast poses Rooney dilemma
LONDON — There is no question — if he is fully fit — that Wayne Rooney (pictured) should be in the 23-man squad that Roy Hodgson names for Euro 2016.
He should also be captain of that squad; but not necessarily of the team. So the question is: should Rooney be in the starting XI when the line-up is named to face Russia in Marseille in England’s first Group B game on 11 June?
A glimpse of what it will be like without England’s record all-time goal-scorer will be offered in the forthcoming friendlies away to Germany on Saturday and at home to Holland next Tuesday with a roster of strikers: Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Jamie Vardy and Theo Walcott.
Walcott would give way from the squad if and when Rooney is fit. But Rooney still has a fight on his hands for his place in the team.
Hodgson has made it clear that he will take the 30-year-old to France if he is “100 percent” but also that he wants to avoid the “unpleasant situation” of deciding, when his initial squad is announced on 12 May, whether he names Rooney and waits to see if he has recovered fully from his knee ligament injury.
Hodgson also knows — a lesson learnt from Rooney at Euro 2012 when he was suspended but returned out of fitness — that unless the striker is fully ready and in-form then it may simply not be worth including him. He may then have a hard decision to make that should, in reality, be a simple one.
And it was not just Poland-ukraine. Rooney was a liability at the 2010 World Cup and too much of a distraction in Germany in 2006 and, beyond that, the pertinent fact is England are far less reliant on him than they have ever been in the 13 years he has played for his country. There are strong options.
Hodgson has to be acutely aware, also, that England have been here before with other ‘ star’ players from David Beckham’s metatarsal before the 2002 World Cup.
There is no date pencilled in for Rooney’s comeback. He denies he has suffered a setback to his knee ligament injury and last week said he should be back soon after this international break which would give him time — a maximum of eight league games and an FA Cup quarter-final replay - to prove himself.
Prove himself? Yes, it is something that he also has to do.
It should not be overlooked that Rooney, when fit this season, has delivered in a chronic Manchester United team and for England also, with 17 goals in 36 appearances, but he is struggling to maintain his fitness.
Of United’s 48 competitive matches he has missed 16 through injury including, now, the last 10.
The ravages of time, of matches, of playing at the highest level since he was 16 are taking their toll.