Rooney backs Hodgson for new contract from the FA
Manchester United man proving driving force for England
WAYNE ROONEY wants the Football Association to back England manager Roy Hodgson with a new deal.
Outgoing FA chairman Greg Dyke discussed Hodgson’s future in a radio interview on the eve of today’s final Group B match against Slovakia, bringing the issue firmly on to the agenda in St Etienne.
Dyke appeared to suggest a semi-final appearance would see the 68-year-old stay on, while a quarter-final exit might still be enough if the team played – and bowed out – in an acceptable fashion.
The England team captain, standing next to his coach in a hallway at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, would hardly be expected to rock the boat, but Rooney’s support, and his reason, seemed heartfelt.
“Of course, as players, we want him to stay, but that is down to his bosses,” said Rooney, repeating Hodgson’s own assertion that the final decision lay with the FA. It shouldn’t go unnoticed the amount of young players he’s introduced into the squad over the last four years.
“There was a big issue in terms of everyone saying we didn’t have the young players coming through in England which other countries had.
“In fairness to the [Barclays] Premier League clubs they’ve brought young players through and Roy has picked them and, in my opinion, created a very good team, but also a fantastic atmosphere around the training ground and when we meet up. It’s a great base for England’s future in the next six to eight years.”
Rooney was not suggesting Hodgson would be around for that time span, of course, and in all likelihood neither will he. But for now the erudite sexagenarian and his 30-year-old skipper make a good match, perhaps never more so than here in France where both have made Rooney’s late switch to midfield appear painless.
“It is important as captain you have a good relationship with the manager and of course we keep in touch outside of when we meet up,” added Rooney. “So in terms of my relationship with Roy it’s very good and I’m sure he’d say the same.”
IT may have been Daniel Sturridge who took the acclaim after his last-gasp goal against Wales gave England the victory that signalled their arrival as contenders at the European Championships, but if there is one man that deserves the lion’s share of credit for the positivity around Roy Hodgson’s side, then it is their captain and leader Wayne Rooney.
Rooney was written off as a spent force by many commentators in his homeland prior to the tournament, and with the attacking places in the England side being pulled from underneath him by the younger, more vital talents of the likes of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy or Adam Lallana, there were those who even doubted the merit of his inclusion in Hodgson’s squad. Rooney may have allowed himself a wry smile as he listened to the same pundits bemoaning the decision to withdraw him as the primary reason behind the late shift in momentum in England’s opening game against Russia, which ultimately led to them surrendering their winning position.
Dropping back into midfield in the opening two group games – as he has done sporadically at club level with Manchester United – has signalled something of a rebirth of Rooney in the white of his country. Displaying a range of passing that draws comparisons to former teammate Paul Scholes, and a reading of the game that exhibits all of the experience gained over 12 years and 113 caps for England, Rooney is influencing matches in a very different, but arguably just as meaningful way, as he once did as a youngster bursting on to the international scene at Euro 2004.
And Hodgson knows it. For all of the talk about his half-time tactical tweak against the Welsh and the benefits reaped by introducing Vardy and Sturridge at the expense of a tiredlooking Kane and an out-of-sorts Raheem Sterling, the England manager was quick to point out after the match who has been the main catalyst behind his side’s revival. “The one who really deserves a pat on the back is Wayne Rooney, because we thought if we could get him being Wayne Rooney doing this job here, we’ll get a lot out of it,” Hodgson said. “We’ll get a goalscorer from distance, we’ll get a passer and we’ll get the benefit of his experience and his captaincy.
“There is always going to be a time, especially as these young bucks come on the scene who run like gazelles, there will always be a time when players are thinking, ‘Maybe it is time for me to move back a little bit’.
“It is not a surprise that the situation has occurred but, with that said, we would always be prepared to use him as a front player. There is more competition for places at the front but I wouldn’t hesitate. At periods during the game against Wales, we thought about swapping him and Lallana over, which we could easily do.”
Easily perhaps, but if you do see such a change occur, it will almost certainly mean that England are chasing a game.
For this evening’s match against Slovakia, where a win for either side will guarantee top position in the group, Rooney’s manager faces something of a selection dilemma. He is a loyal manager by nature, but dropping Sterling for Sturridge – despite the damage that may inflict upon a player already bereft of confidence – seems a certainty. Vardy may also start in place of Kane after his own goalscoring cameo against the Welsh.
“Jamie and Daniel did very well when they came on against Wales and I’m sure they would like to start,” said Hodgson yesterday. “The options are there. We have spoken at length on
many occasions about the options available, especially in the front positions and nothing changes. It’s a decision to be made.
“I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary [for me to make changes to my team],” he said. “The players are in good shape and I don’t think it will be a problem if I keep much the same side as we’ve played. But also there are a lot of players who would like to play and have been knocking hard at the door to play so I have the option to refresh.”
What does seem likely though is that Rooney will again adopt his deeper lying playmaker position, from where he will look to plot a way through a Slovakian side buoyed by their victory over Russia last time out. That win was orchestrated by a masterful performance from Napoli star Marek Hamsik, but it was also punctuated by a splendid goal from former Rangers winger Vladimir Weiss. The former Manchester City youth player is confident that his side can upset the odds against Hodgson’s men.
“We want to work towards the outcome which will make us all happy,” said Weiss. “After our first game against Wales I was not happy. Somehow I did not really receive the ball, but in the second game it was better. From scoring a goal you do get confidence, and I will try to take that into the third match and help the team as much as I can.”
The 26-year-old – now at Qatari side Al-Gharafa - has never hidden his continuing affection for the Ibrox club, and if Mark Warburton fancies adding a star of Euro 2016 to his playing squad, then he would jump at the chance to return. “The best time of my career was moving to Rangers on loan,” he said. “I would love to go back.”
LEADING BY EXAMPLE: England captain Wayne Rooney in focused mood during training yesterday. Picture: Getty Images
HODGSON: Always prepared to use Rooney as a front player