PLEASE CAN THE REAL RooNEy STANd uP
The real Wayne Rooney must turn up at the Green Point stadium tonight if england are going to reignite their World Cup hopes.
Not the man with the frustrated demeanour of recent matches. Not the player who admits he was not training flat out at the Austrian altitude training camp because of niggling injuries.
And not the striker who has scored just once for England in the last 12 months, that against Croatia in qualifying.
England need the Rooney who has been heralded as one of the three greatest footballers on the planet at the World Cup, alongside Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
They need the player whose form for Manchester United was so prolific in the midpart of last season he had as good as tied up the Player of the Year trophy on all fronts before anyone had carved the Christmas turkey.
‘Wrap Rooney in cotton wool’ was the most cliched phrase as England prepared for this World Cup. Well, forget the cotton wool against Algeria. It is time for Rooney to deliver.
If he really is to be the greatest English talent of all-time - and there are many who believe he is capable of such an accolade - then now is the time to prove he is a match-winner when it matters most.
That is what defines greatness. It is what made Bobby Charlton the most influential player in English football history. That ability to raise the levels of those around him while making and scoring goals himself.
Of course Rooney cannot do it all and no-one would suggest his slightly below-par performances of late are England’s biggest concern.
Manager Fabio Capello has more basic concerns.
For a start, does he stick with goalkeeper Robert Green whose howler against the USA cost England a winning start in this tournament?
You might think it cruel to dump a goalkeeper for one mistake, however damaging, but big tournaments when the nerves are jangling and the mind often little more than a blur need experience - and David James has that.
Let’s face it, England should beat Algeria, a nation ranked 30th in the world and who looked devoid of penetration and ambition in their first match which ended in a 1-0 defeat by Slovenia.
But if England are to go deep into July in this tournament they have to find a higher tempo as well as play with more guile. They have to cast off the caution with which Capello sets up his flanks. They have to dare to win.