Rooney backs Hodg­son for new con­tract from the FA

Manch­ester United man prov­ing driv­ing force for Eng­land

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE NAILOR

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

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