, ENGLAND S STRIKING DILEMMA
to replace the injured Theo Walcott CHRIS DUNLAVY considers who Roy Hodgson could consider
ANOTHER World Cup, another chance to kick Theo Walcott. After being taken on work experience by Sven GoranEriksson in 2006 and axed in the final cut by Fabio Capello in 2010, the 24-year-old has now knackered his cruciate, meaning he has yet to even kick a ball at football’s biggest party.
It’s a savage blow for poor Theo, who had been bang in form for Arsenal and finally seems to be playing with a confidence to match his undoubted menace. He’s also – weirdly – shaken off the media training and become relatively engaging, at least compared to the average Match of the Day drivel spouter.
But Theo’s loss is somebody else gain. With probably four forward spots available for Brazil, there’s now a place on the plane going free.Who should take it? We look at the runners and riders:
THE CERTAINTIES WAYNE ROONEY MANCHESTER UNITED CAPS: 88 GOALS: 38
RIGHT Wayne, you’re going. So how about turning up this time? Broken toes, Vegas booze-ups, tabloid scandal, daft suspensions – Rooney has had plenty of excuses for his failure to perform on the biggest stage for England.
But the cold fact is that Rooney has netted just one tournament goal in ten years for England and that is a rank bad record for someone of his talent. Little wonder that Fabio Capello once said, “Rooney only plays well in Manchester”.
If Hodgson can get Rooney playing with confidence and discipline, he clearly has the skill to control a game. But unless he can curb the frustration that creeps in when more skilful opponents dominate England – and they will – Rooney will once more spend the summer chasing round the pitch like a fat, red, sweaty Brit abroad.
At 28, he will never again grace a World Cup in peak fitness. If he wants a legacy beyond these shores, now is the time to step up and stop stropping around.
DANIEL STURRIDGE LIVERPOOL CAPS: 9 GOALS: 2
Frustrating? Yes. Unpredictable? Definitely. But what Sturridge possesses – far more than any other player in this list – is pomp and swagger.
The Liverpool striker plays like he’s the most skilful kid in the playground, even when that playground contains the fabulously talented Luis Suarez.
He’ll attempt a trick, take on a man, go for a screamer or a cheeky chip. It doesn’t always come off but he has the confidence and technique to try, a sense of adventure that England have always lacked on the big stage.
With Rooney guaranteed to drop deep, the
Liverpool man is likely to start the tournament as England’s main striker; his ability to link play (ask Suarez, scorer of 22 goals so far) could even see the two interchange. Fancy eh?
THE CONTENDERS ANDY CARROLL WEST HAM CAPS: 9 GOALS: 2
REMEMBER that moment against Sweden in Euro 2012 when Carroll, hair flying, face muscles tensed, soared skywards to meet Steven Gerrard’s cross?
As the ball thumped into the net with Carroll still seemingly suspended 15 feet in the air, we were reminded again that nobody in England – perhaps the world – can head a ball like the West Ham striker.
But you can only head a ball if you are on the pitch and the subsequent 18 months have seen the 25-year-old (yes, he’s not even that young anymore), manage just 26 games.
Now fit again after a foot problem, Carroll is notoriously slow to recover and will have to complete his rehabilitation in a side battling relegation.
And when you consider that a) England’s wingers are crap at crossing and b) the far more rounded Lambert is also decent in the air, it seems a pointless risk.
DANNY WELBECK MANCHESTER UNITED CAPS: 20 GOALS: 8
WELBECK has taken a lot of stick and when you score one goal in 27 games for a team who won the title – as United did last year – it’s easy to see why.
But the 23-year-old has plenty going for him. Unlike many English strikers, the ball tends to stick and he rarely concedes possession – an invaluable commodity at big tournaments.
Sturridge and Rooney
Danny Welbeck scoresAndy Carroll’s Euro 2012 header