Goal feast poses Rooney dilemma

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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.

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