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England cannot replace Rooney

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Phil McNulty | 14:34 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Fabio Capello's success in rebuilding England allows him to publicly outline plans to adopt "Style A, Style B or Style C" without fear of reducing his assembled audience to laughter.

Capello, with a World Cup place safely secured, held court at Arsenal's London Colney training headquarters before England's final qualifier against Belarus at Wembley and explained how flexibility will be a crucial factor in South Africa.

Heady days indeed for seasoned England observers who would have struggled to detect "Style A" under previous regimes, even with the benefit of a high-intensity microscope, and a small insight into Capello's meticulous methods.

Capello gets the chance to implement one of his alternative strategies against Belarus - but it is one he will never want to use again in competitive combat, especially if England harbour serious hopes of winning the World Cup next summer.

Namely, it is the plan that forces Capello to make allowances for the absence of an injured Wayne Rooney. No Rooney for an experimental qualifier is one thing. No Rooney for a World Cup game is another.

Capello does not do "irreplaceable" - but if he did he would do it for the Manchester United striker. And if anyone cares to mount a case against this theory, a cursory glance at the list of potential replacements must convince them otherwise.

If Rooney is fit and in form England are contenders to win the World Cup. If he is not they are not - it is as stark as that.

rooney595335getty.jpg
Rooney listens to Capello during Saturday's game in Ukraine

England's attacking partnership against Belarus looks certain to be Peter Crouch and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Crouch and Agbonlahor are both fine Premier League performers, indeed the Spurs forward has a more presentable international scoring rate than the seemingly untouchable Emile Heskey, but they do not possess the fear factor Rooney strikes into world-class defenders.

They are part of a supporting cast that will audition over the next few months in the hope of booking a seat on the plane to South Africa, with the possibility of a bit more besides if Heskey does not perform.

Capello, like other fine football minds such as former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, is in thrall to what Heskey offers, namely a physical presence, a willingness to carry out orders to the letter and a selflessness that can benefit the more stellar talents such as Rooney and, in the past, Michael Owen.

Heskey admits he may have to leave Aston Villa to stop his World Cup ambitions being wrecked by a lack of action. Martin O'Neill will not make sacrifices to satisfy Heskey's international hopes, and it may mean a step down for the striker because he will not be a target for the top four.

He has been linked with former club Liverpool, but he is hardly more likely to oust Fernando Torres than he is John Carew. And even Capello may be forced to take a view on Heskey if he adds a lack of games to his other Achilles heel, a lack of goals.

Carlton Cole and Darren Bent, a hugely effective Premier League striker, have not presented compelling evidence that they are international class strikers. And while Jermain Defoe will be in the squad, he is seen as an impact player as opposed to a partner for Rooney.

And then we come to Michael Owen. Owen reminded us why England should select him when he poached Manchester United's winner against Manchester City - then reminded us why they should not when he limped off early against Wolfsburg in the Champions League.

If Owen is fit and scoring goals he must go the World Cup. Note the "if" here is a very large one.

This lack of an obvious second striker makes Capello's determination to devise a series of tactical approaches even more wise. Every one, however, will have Rooney firmly at its epicentre. Every one would be weakened by his absence.

Rooney has the self-confidence, and more importantly the ability, to believe that the World Cup is his natural environment. England cannot do without that sort of attitude.

After passing a fitness test on a foot injury before the World Cup in 2006, Rooney arrived back at England's base at the Schlosshotel Buhlerhohe in Baden-Baden with the words: "The big man's back in town."

Sadly for England the big man was not fit and his tournament fizzled out well before he was sent off for stamping on Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho in the quarter-finals.

England captain John Terry did not play down how vital Rooney is to the cause when he admitted in his post-match briefing at London Colney: "It is a chance for us to play without him, and a chance for the manager to try one or two more players up front, but he will be sorely missed.

"We have seen him mature as a player in the last two years. He has grown up and taken a lot of responsibility."

Rooney has the pace, power and goalscoring ability to spearhead England's World Cup bid. He has the intelligence to link all parts of the team - no-one else at Capello's disposal has these qualities.

He is also, despite his relatively tender years, a huge dressing room influence. The noisy, exuberant Scouser has a self-confidence that is infectious and inspires even more experienced team-mates.

Rooney also has the incentive, after a string of superlative performances as an England fledgling in Euro 2004 were cut short when he broke his foot against Portugal in another quarter-final and injury reduced his effectiveness in Germany two years later.

He will not want disappointment at a major tournament again and England should be the beneficiaries.

Capello's own inner belief would not be shaken should anything deprive him of Rooney - but he is shrewd enough to know how integral he is to plan A, B, C or any other he conjures up.

The Italian was in buoyant mood ahead of the conclusion of an excellent qualifying campaign - but once again he declared England have achieved "nothing" and revealed he had spoken to defender Rio Ferdinand about his latest high-profile error, against the Ukraine.

Capello did not sound like had delivered the hard word - he is too big an admirer of Ferdinand to do that just yet - but, like the Don making you the offer you cannot refuse, the message was clear. No repeats.

He will get the opportunity to show Capello's words have hit home when he partners John Terry in central defence against Belarus.

For Rooney, it is a night off and a role as an interested spectator. For England it is a glimpse into a world they will not want to contemplate when the serious action gets under way next summer.

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Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    If Rooney is fit and in form England are contenders to win the World Cup. If he is not they are not - it is as stark as that.
    ------------------------
    No it's not as stark as that and to suggest it is is naive and poor all at the same time.

    Right, so if Rooney get's injured on the last day of the season, we'll not bother sending the England team to South Africa then.

  • Comment number 2.

    Rooney is vital to England's success.

    Wow, what insight.

  • Comment number 3.

    Phil - I agree with you almost fully but (and I know as an Englishman it is sacrilege to say this) do you not think that Rooney misses too many chances and that against the top teams this could be cruscial.

    I know he is top scorer in the qualifiers but against the Spains and Brazils we mught only get one chance.

    I am in no way saying he should not play (on the contrary) but maybe Defoe needs to play with him as he he is possibly more likely to hit the net with his chances.

    (I am not excluding Owen from the scenario but being realistic that he may not get there).

  • Comment number 4.

    to be fair i feel owen is understudy to rooney at both united and england. they aint a partnership. fergie doen't think so, i doubt capello will. and carlton cole has more of a chance than you give him credit. he make one more step up he's england leading target man wit a bit of skill to boot...

  • Comment number 5.

    Phil is right in saying that England's hope in SA lies heavily on Rooney. No matter how good you are in the mid-field or at the back, you must have a ruthless striker in your team who has the wiil, ability, experience and confidence to get you the goals. That's the only thing which matters at the end of the day. IMO, there is nobody better to replace Rooney in that role.

  • Comment number 6.

    MrBlueBurns, good punctuation but poor understanding. The point made was that we wouldn't be contenders without Rooney. Why would we not send a team just because we're not going to win? Even those foolish optimists will probably admiot we've sent those teams often enough in the past.

    Without a top quality striker you aren't going to win anything. Rooney's ability to create a goal from nothing when his team is struggling is priceless.

    However without a top goalkeeper we're doomed anyway.... You're right maybe we should just stay at home and pretend to be Scottish lol.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    I haven't read any of the article, but let me guess as to the main points:

    1. Rooney is a world class player. Stock phrases like "Moment of magic", "turn a game", "make something out of nothing".

    2. An assessment of all the other English strikers, reaching the conclusion that they're a bit handy, and Owen could still rediscover his form, but none of them have all those stock phrases from Point 1.

    3. Something about how Cappello loves Rooney, considers him undroppable, he was the MOTM in Ukraine, etc.

    4. Recaps to the last two tournaments England qualified for. Rooney was pretty good at Euro 2004 but when he got injured the England team capitulated, yadda yadda. Then something about in 2006 he was rushed back, we didn't have a focal point in attack, uninspired play yadda yadda.

    5. Finally, something in the region of "If England are finally going to put to bed years of underachievement and fulfil their potential in South Africa", Rooney will be critical, and will probably be one of the key players of the tournament.

    Sprinkle in some bits about his form for Manchester United, how he's rediscovered himself in a central role for club and country and a seasoning of hopefully he won't get burned out before the summer and you're done. Exactly the same article every other columnist has written on this subject for the past year.

    I'm going to eat my tea, then come back and see how accurate I was.

  • Comment number 9.

    If England's hopes rest on one man the team might as well stay home,hard to believe there are no other options.Let's hope the new rules about import players will produce a much better crop of home grown players by 2014.
    Actually I am more concerned about the aging,error prone defence and the lack of a really reliable goalie.

  • Comment number 10.

    Groundbreaking stuff... When we beat Croatia 5-1, Rooney had one of his quiter days, he certainly wasn't the stand out performer. If this had been England in the last 5 years or definitely true) to say that no Rooney = No chance of winning an internecessarily so then it would be more accurate (though not national event. However, I feel that under Capello England suddenly seem to have options they never had before. Firstly he has got Gerrard and Lampard to begin to play to their potential. This means that a five man midfield with a lone striker other than Rooney can be deployed and be successful because these two world class attacking midfielders provide proper support from deep along with genuinely threatening wingers like Lennon and Ashley Young (sooo much better than SWP, as is Milner). Also, if you look at a typical England subsitute bench nowadays it's full of players who, while not as good as Rooney on an individual level- can change the course of a game. Beckham, Walcott, Ashley Young, Milner, Defoe etc etc. These are all players that possess a quality that can scare the opposition. World class distribution, searing pace or lethal finishing. We would undoubtedly be weakened by Rooney's absence, but we would still be a threat to most teams.

  • Comment number 11.

    Phil good post and spot on. I don't believe England will win the World Cup but if they did you'd have to think Rooney would be involved in a significant way. The alternatives are not good enough and it is a huge problem for England that the next tier of players below Rooney are so devoid of international class. Defoe and Crouch are good subs. Bent is nowhere near international class and Owen is way too injury prone and whilst hasn't lost his knack for finishing, his pace that used to terrorize is long gone. His experience would be invaluable though so if he's fit he is going to have to be in South Africa. Heskey just fits well with England and with Rooney and although it seems to be one of the great mysteries of the world why he does well for England he just does so has to be Rooney's partner.

    As for the rest of the team the concerns are especially scary in the goalkeeping area. Not sure who's the best, they all look average to me. Defensicely we'll be fine, Rio will sort himself out and that back four if they can eliminate the silly mistakes is solid. Midfield with Gerrard add Lampard at the core should be good enough. Then the Lennons, Walcotts and others are the question marks. If Capello can have those guys fit, we have a shot.

  • Comment number 12.

    Well, well. Another pro Man Utd piece from Phil McNulty.

    Rooney will definitely be vital for England. It's vital that he is able to avoid red cards and stay on the pitch.

  • Comment number 13.

    Unless our defence gets sorted out, I would not even begin to worry about whether Rooney will be fit for the world cup.

    Also what is wrong with playing Gerrard behind a more mobile striker than heskey with joe cole on the left wing/ or cole behind the striker.

    I personally think it is going to hinge on whether Hargreaves is fit, when watching england, Gerrard always tends to leave a gap on the left, and obviously the same with johnson, Hargreaves is the only player who will be able to bust the gut to fill in these places.

  • Comment number 14.

    Dilemma for Capello in managing big potential team like England.

  • Comment number 15.

    I feel Gerrard would be great replacement for Rooney at second striker

  • Comment number 16.

    Rooney is a great player. He is like our Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), the sight of him charging at you would scare you, no matter who you are. However (and I do hope I am proved wrong) Rooney has never produced on the big stage (with acception to a great euro 2004). And we as a nation keep relying on him to produce that form whenever we need him. We cannot overestimate Rooney. He has helped us, but he has also hindered us!

  • Comment number 17.

    I disagree totally with the assumption that England has to have Rooney in the team. We may not have a like for like replacement, but to imply that England can only have one Plan A, and that is 'Rooney plays or else', is to admit defeat now. That is what has been wrong in the past with England selection, a total reliance on one mode of play. Capello, has given us hope that there may be Plans B and C, and more; and that reliance on one player is not an answer. I expect that there were people saying much the same before 1966 about Jimmy Greaves, certainly he never expected not to feature, but he all know what happened in the end. England won because they played as a team, and did not try to rely on a single player, not even Bobby Charlton.

    Even if Rooney is fit, I would hope that Capello has more flexibility than having to play him in every game.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    Ferguson knew what he was doing when he signed Owen, and at United he has the personnel and specialised environment to bring him back to a fully fit, injury free striker. And, from his finish against City, he still has that goalscorers instinct that will make him invaluable to England at the World Cup. Him and Rooney up front for United and England will lead to a partnership better than any other save for perhaps Torres and Villa. Exciting times.

  • Comment number 20.

    And we need Joe Cole back playing regular Premiership football. Would be amazing to see him replacing Giggs at United, and then England would have only right back to worry about, and finally we would also have options on the left, a luxury we have rarely had.

  • Comment number 21.

    "lack of an obvious second striker"

    Gerrard?

  • Comment number 22.

    The whole squad needs to be in form not just Rooney. We need Lampard and Gerrard to step up their game in South Africa.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    It depends also on what the other Contenders have to offer ? Rooney is likely to be there next summer. A season of football, goals and confidence could turn Walcott and Agbonlahor into world beaters. If captain fantastic Gerrard performs a few miracles! there's Joe Cole ! If Rio and Terry hit form ? Whatever you do don't write off Owen and kamikaze all your belief on Rooney.

  • Comment number 25.

    If Rooney is fit and in form England are contenders to win the World Cup. If he is not they are not - it is as stark as that.


    -----------------------------------

    And you wonder why England players complain of unnecessary pressure. get real

  • Comment number 26.

    Phil "Master of the Obvious" strikes again!

    hey, do you think that if Gerrard breaks a leg, Liverpool will struggle to win the league? let's discuss!

  • Comment number 27.

    8 System J

    that's good stuff, mate...nail on the ....hey Phil, how's that stock phrase finish?

  • Comment number 28.

    If Owen is fit and scoring goals he must go the World Cup. Note the "if" here is a very large one.


    ----------------------------------------------

    And watch him pull up against Spain or the likes? HA!

    You could replace Torres or Villa, or Ronaldo with Owen in that sentence, but let's try producing the home grown goods that match your terminology first. Not old, has beens who are after nothing but securing a already overpaid future, and have no real interest in football unless they introduced horse racing at half time!

  • Comment number 29.

    Rooney injured? Stick Gerrard in the free role behind either Owen and Defoe - problem solved.

    On a side-note, do you think if Heskey doesn't play enough games will Capello actually drop him?

  • Comment number 30.

    I think talk of England having a chance to win the World Cup with a fit and in-form Rooney, and no chance of winning without him is ridiculous.

    Yes, in qualifying he has stepped up to the plate big time and put the chances away when he has got them. But how many of those chances has he created for himself, compared to how many were created for him by the players around him? And, how many times in qualifying was he put through by one of the other England players, only to miss the target?

    Football is a TEAM sport, and to say we have no chance if we are missing a single player is implying that every single member of the team is rubbish without Rooney in front of them all. Which is frankly a pathetic statement.

    Do you think that without Rooney there John Terry will suddenly forget how to defend? Or maybe Lampard and Gerrard will go back to being unable to play in the same side as one another without him there to guide them through the game!

    At the end of the day, going off his track record Rooney is just as likely to turn into Mr Angry and get himself sent off as he is to score the goals that will win England the World Cup.

    And he wont get the protection he does in the Premiership by referee's who are too afraid of the Wrath of Fergie to book him or send him off when he starts hurling abuse their way, which is guaranteed at some point during the tournament.

    Is Rooney a good player? Undoubtedly.

    Is he a great player? I don't think he is, although the potential is there for him to become a great player.

    Are England doomed without him? Only time will tell. But to say so far in advance of the tournament that we are serves no purpose other than to plant a seed of doubt into the minds of the other players, and gives them a ready made excuse to under-perform should he get injured before the tournament.

    Do we have other strikers capable of scoring goals for England? Well look at the stats:

    Rooney, caps - 55 , goals - 25, average 1 goal every 2.2 games
    Crouch, caps - 34 , goals - 16, average 1 goal every 2.125 games
    Defoe, caps - 37 , goals - 11, average 1 goal every 3.36 games
    Owen, caps - 89 , goals - 40, average 1 goal every 2.225 games

    So on a goals per game average, Peter Crouch is actually the most prolific England striker. You also have to bear in mind that both Crouch and Defoe, unlike Rooney and Owen have got a lot of their caps coming on as substitutes, so I think both can be trusted to do a job if needed.

    As for Owen, if fit he should be an automatic choice, although Capello doesn't seem to like him for some reason.

  • Comment number 31.

    How can England possibly be WC contenders if Rooney is essential? The replacements of Crouch, Agbonlahor, Bent etc. are a joke at international level. Success in an easy qualifying group seems to have gone to a few heads yet again.

  • Comment number 32.

    Rooney will be a big factor in how far England progress? If he is at his game and chips in with the goal scoring along with Lampard (not counting on Gerrard seeing as he regularly goes missing for England), I feel we will do well.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think a better blog would have been how Manchester United players are always withdrawn from squads only to play in the following fixture. Does anyone really think he's injured? Against UEFA regulaionns to play on Saturday but of course he, and D Ferguson will. Happened on at least a dozen occasions in the past 18 months and UEFA haven't even mentioned it. What do they do in these places?

  • Comment number 34.

    Well, it worked for Argentina in 1986.

  • Comment number 35.

    So our esteemed blogger reckons Rooney can win the World Cup for England, but not the EPL for United.

    How does that work, Phil?

  • Comment number 36.

    Remember they said England would have no chance without Jimmy Greaves in 1966

  • Comment number 37.

    When do we get good tactical analysis rather than the weekly 'i think player so-and-so is mercurial', 'player so-and-so is outstanding'?

    The team England has with or without Rooney is at best a semi-final squad. IMO, this team is not better than the 1990 team. Gazza was a much greater talent than Rooney would ever be...

    I am a realist and you heard from me first, England will not win the world cup. Rooney is not good enough to win it for England like Ronaldo and Zidane did for Brazil and France respectively.

    Is it a sacrilege making this type of statement? No! Arshavin cannot win it for Russia, Ronaldo cannot win it for Portugal. It is going to be Kaka's world cup in a final against Spain - I said it first...

    I have the tactical analysis to back up my points and would be more than happy to discuss that with any other blogger...

  • Comment number 38.

    It sounds like the British Football-Press has still only got a "Plan A", just like last time (i.e. Rooney=Messiah).

    Who was widely acknowledged to be Englands best player last time?
    Hargreaves.

    If the premise of the blog is correct then, once more, we are doomed before the team even get to South Africa, because we would not have a "team".

    All the opposition would have to do is mark Rooney out of the game for 90 minutes, or until he loses his temper, whichever comes first.

  • Comment number 39.

    @ No.15. At 5:52pm on 13 Oct 2009, kopitecelt wrote:

    I feel Gerrard would be great replacement for Rooney at second striker

    -----------------------------

    Not only is that a enormous amount of rubbish but unfortunately he (Gerrard) appears to have no desire to play for country, only club!

    I know it is not a deciding game and it is hypocritical as Rooney has also dropped out but anyone doubting Rooney's passion and enthusiasm.

  • Comment number 40.

    I cannot believe this blog, they are usually so good and right to the point. your comment that England cannot win without Rooney suggests that the manager has no idea what he is doing....also as some one pointed out where was Rooney in 5-1 defeat of croitia in croitia....it really makes me mad when commentators try to make out that this england team is a one man team....defoe is on fire and I beleive will score more goals at the world cup than rooney, and i expect to get the bit about him being shelfish and look at the work rooney does...well in that case rooney needs to make his mind up..is he a striker and scores goals or is he a work horse...any way rant over. In Capello we have an excellent manager and what team he puts out willbe well drilled and disciplined and if they paly like he asks we have a great chance, whoever is in the team as it is a team game!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    Another one-dimensional McNulty Blog...

    Look, I am as big a fan of Rooney as the next person, but to pin Englands narrow hopes on one player is ridiculous. This is becoming a mantra that has often bogged England stars down in the past.

    Whilst an excellent forward, "Jimmy" as he is known by his close friends and family, is not the most prolific striker in the world, not even in the Premiership.
    Secondly, despite improving his temperament, he still has a short fuse. Another source of unwanted yellow cards and niggling injuries is his exuberant style of play. Rooney plays on the edge, precisely what makes him so good. However, he does that with a risk. Take that risk element away from his game, you devalue the player. Another element of his play is to do "too much" for the team - he drops back and fights for the ball in all sorts of positions, only to not be in a goalscoring position when the chance arises. This is an indictment to his team mates at both club and country, if he can work so hard, why can't everyone else, Messrs Ferdinand, Lampard and Beckham?

    On that evidence, you can actually set your stall out to frustrate, nullify and provoke Rooney. Fortunately that doesn't work most of the time - and then there is the prospect of him playing up-front on his own. Managers know he needs a second striker to be at his most effective, yet because of his enormous work rate, they still deploy the tactic.

    It would be very sad if England had to rely on Rooney and his exploits and his absence would weaken the side. But we are talking about a player who didn't score for national side for nearly three years. Still, he is a great player, but no one soldier makes an army!

  • Comment number 42.

    I agree that Rooney is our biggest prospect, and his absence leaves a bigger hole than anyone, but we do have other options; Gerrard, Joe Cole, Lampard - all can play in the 'hole' that Rooney does, possibly not with quite the same effect, but all three are world class players. Capello's plan A can work with at least 3 alternatives to Rooney. The absence of Heskey could change Capello's plan A more than Rooney.

  • Comment number 43.

    No team wanting to win a world cup can rely on just one player. Its the strength of the team and the squad that ultimately decides the teams success. I am sure Capello knows this.

    England cannot enter the world cup thinking that as long as Rooney is fit then they will be okay. The other big players need to stand up like Gerrard and Lampard. Its about time these two put in a big performance for England when it really matters!! not just Rooney...

    U win as a team, u loose as a team....simples!!

  • Comment number 44.

    Rooney has the pace, power and goalscoring ability to spearhead England's World Cup bid. He has the intelligence to link all parts of the team - no-one else at Capello's disposal has these qualities.
    ________________________________________________________

    Steven Gerrard has those qualities and more. Gerard is England's best player and probably the best player in the world. Rooney does not even appear in the top 10 FIFA list.
    England have to acknowledge that Gerrard is the best player and build the team around him. He is England's Maradona, Zidane, Platini, Ronaldo (the Brazillian) etc. The others have to understand that he is the most talented and most important player - like he is at Liverpool, or Ronaldo was at ManU. There has to be heirachy of resposibility and respect for a team to win a major championship. The outstanding player has to be given the freedom to influence games and perform to his best. He has to move the team.
    The night before the WC '98, senior French players (and I am not talking about Henry) visited a relatively young Zidane in his room and told him of his responsibilty and that he had to have a big match - the biggest of his life! He was the best they had and they acknowledged it. He did not disappoint. England have to get the message through to the Lampards and Rooneys etc that they have to play for Gerrard and Englad. There should be no doubt who will make it happen for them and for England.. Otherwise the egos take over and it all fizzles out again.

  • Comment number 45.

    Rooney is an asset of course, but lets not forget, our full strength midfield is a potent force attacking, with the likes of Joe Cole, Gerrard, Lampard and Walcott. Terry and our fullbacks are useful in this area too.

    Bottom line is, as good as Rooney is, our chances don't hinge on him.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hmmmm I like your blogs Phil, and usually agree with you. I'm also a huge United (and Rooney) fan, but I do feel you've exaggerated slightly here.

    Sure, with Rooney, England's chance of WC success improves. But I think it's wrong to say that without him we won't have a chance. I guess if Rooney got injured, Gerrard could slip into his position, and although perhaps not being quite as strong, I don't really think that would limit our chances of success as dramatically as you imply.

    Also, we have match winners all over the pitch - Gerrard, Lampard, Defoe, Walcott, Lennon, etc. I think Carlton Cole is a very good player and just what England needs (especially as a partner to Rooney)... if any of those aforementioned players beats a player and plays a ball to Cole or Defoe, I'd back them to score. Then there's Joe Cole and Hargreaves making returns - 2 great players who will massively boost the squad if (and that IS an if) they stay fit. And even a fit Michael Owen will be a massive asset to have, as he never stops scoring.

    I personally think our main problem is our defence - no solid and confident keeper, and Rio making mistakes. Ashley Cole also did the same against Ukraine, and everyone keeps mentioning Johnson's defensive qualities. When fit and playing well, I like our defence a lot, but at the moment they're shaky.

    So in summation, sure, Rooney is invaluable to England. But I really don't think you can say that his absence would mean we have no chance of doing well at the World Cup. Let's see how we cope tomorrow before shouting that our chances would be nullified. I really think the team has enough quality that we could do without Rooney, although I do agree the team would invariably be weakened somewhat.

  • Comment number 47.

    And also Darren Bent is another very good striker in great form. Forgot to mention him... We have loads of options in attack!

  • Comment number 48.

    Emmnues I totally agree with you apart from one small point. I reckon Its gonna be Spains world cup.

  • Comment number 49.

    Sorry I disagree. Rooney is probably England's best player, but our strength is impact - direct impact at teams. And we have at least 3 other players capable of doing this - Walcott, J.Cole and Lennon. Our biggest weakness is to think that 442 is the only way to play. If we get our heads round that, then we actually have a decent squad with strength e.g. Milner - may not hit papers every week in the premier league, but at international football he can be good becasue of his ability to hold the ball without panicking (something which England have been guilty off for years).

  • Comment number 50.

    Phil always spew nonsense, maybe Rooney bribed him with some pounds and has asked him to spew such a....Only Rooney, how can England win?

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    #6
    Maybe we should stay at home and pretend to be scottish .....LOL
    What a Gem !!

  • Comment number 53.

    Disagree with you Phil. Most teams that have had success in the big international tournaments have built their team on a tough defence, complete midfield and hard working striker(s) (France 98 is a good example).

    I think England's back four is strong despite recent mistakes but the goalkeeping situation is a problem. The midfield is strong and have pace on the wings although there is no cover for Barry.

    Heskey and Rooney are hard working strikers but if Rooney is absent then England can pick another central midfielder and play Gerrard in a more advanced position. So I don't think Rooney is imperative for England's success.

  • Comment number 54.

    McNulty's comments about the indispensability of Wayne Rooney remind me of similar remarks about Jimmy Greaves in 1966. They were wrong then too.

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm sorry, but this is one of those columns written with rather more haste than sense.

    To begin with, this type of subject, even if expressed as an opinion, is precisely the reason why we continue to fail so miserably in the major tournaments: this is sensationalism before the fact, which invariably leads to the type of unnecessary inner questioning that often becomes, at least in our case, self-fulfilling prophesy. Why must we anticipate a disaster several months before its mere possibility even draws near? Besides, it is inaccurate to suggest that all our hopes are pinned to one man; naive to assume that such a weight will not sit heavily on that one man's shoulders. You've travelled with the team and should think better of floating around such comments, primarily because you know full well that Rooney's mind is brilliant on a football pitch, but of very little consequence elsewhere.

    Also, split-infinitives aside, the following sentence is nonsensical:

    'Heady days indeed for seasoned England observers who would have struggled to detect "Style A" under previous regimes, even with the benefit of a high-intensity microscope, and a small insight into Capello's meticulous methods.'

    To which subject exactly is the coordinating conjunction attached? This is poor composition.

    And finally, to those who post, do we really need to be so limited as to use things like 'IMO'? For those of us who actually believe in the use of the sentence as a building block of the English language, this usage is merely the latest and swiftest route towards en masse stupidity. And quite frankly, it's not exactly helped by some of the constructions in this article.

  • Comment number 56.

    Phil- Spot on!
    With a fully fit Rooney England will have a realistic chance in SA. It is not, as many other posters are implying, a case of advocating a 'one man show' by any means; as we all know it takes a fully functioning team effort, i.e. with the right players, in the right positions, with the right mind-sets, doing the right things, at the right time and with the right amount of good fortune, to lift the World Cup.
    The point is that with Rooney involved as you suggest, it is the best chance England will have of ticking all the above boxes - Fabio knows this already, but he has to make contingency plans as well.
    The initial reaction of the team (and the management) to going down to ten men against the Ukraine, demonstrates that point very well.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am not too sure about your reliance on one man, especially Rooney. He is a very good player but your article seems to put him on the same level as great players of recent times like Maradona, Gullit, Van Basten, Zidane, Ronaldo etc. These are players above Rooney's skill level. Whether he will get better in the forthcoming years remans to be seen. In the meantime, you're quite a bit off the mark; you are trying to score a good goal but you've blasted the ball miles away from the goal!!!

  • Comment number 58.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 59.

    www.football-journo.com

    Yes Rooney is vital to England but it says more about the other English forwards then it does Rooney. For Example, none of the other forwards are playing Champions League football, Owen (just about) apart.

    If Rooney doesn't make the World Cup, its far from over from England point of view.
    If they can solidify their defence and get Gerrard performing to his Liverpool best then he is someone who could carry the nations hopes, as is Lampard.

    Capello relies on the team rather than individuals, with or with out Rooney.

    www.football-journo.com

  • Comment number 60.

    "No it's not as stark as that and to suggest it is is naive and poor all at the same time.

    Right, so if Rooney get's injured on the last day of the season, we'll not bother sending the England team to South Africa then."

    no, but we will not win without him. remember 2004? we had a stronger squad than we do now. yet when rooney got injured, we still looked a bit lost. he's our only striker who can scare world class defenders.

  • Comment number 61.

    I'm pretty sure that the Daily Mirror showed a statistic today that England have a better win record without Rooney than with him in recent times which tends to counteract the definite assumption of your piece.

    I personally think Rooney is a great player & one of the main components of our best team but I don't think he is absolutely essential as you suggest.

    Gerrard playing off Defoe would be more than adequate to my mind and would also open a gap for Joe Cole

  • Comment number 62.

    "If Rooney is fit and in form England are contenders to win the World Cup. If he is not they are not - it is as stark as that."

    Oh dear. I'm outnumbered. My 8-year-old son agrees with you.

  • Comment number 63.

    54. At 7:35pm on 13 Oct 2009, *Exiled Canary wrote:

    McNulty's comments about the indispensability of Wayne Rooney remind me of similar remarks about Jimmy Greaves in 1966. They were wrong then too.

    .................................................................................

    The difference being that a certain Alf Ramsey disagreed with the MbNulty's of 1966

  • Comment number 64.

    is it me or is everyone talking about Rooney as if he has come up with some massive goals for England? when has he? the biggest one i can remember is in the Euro 2004 group stage, and possibly Argentina in 2006. to say Rooney can conjure a goal from nothing is ridiculous, yes he has hit the net a lot in qualifying, but we've not been playing anyone near challenging for the World Cup next year. i don't get the hype surrounding Rooney, yes we stand a better chance with him, no denying his quality, but to say that he has "goalscoring ability" comparable to the likes of Lineker or Owen is in my opinion ridiculous, he's just not that kind of player.

  • Comment number 65.

    fabulousRedsReds - I'm going to have a wild stab in the dark and guess that you are a Liverpool fan. As highly as I rate Gerrard, I can't help but feel that your club blinkers have got the better of you. Think of it this way: think of how many quality/World Class players has Capello coached during his career. Given the fact that Capello will know fine well that Rooney's and Gerrard's best roles are very similar, and the fact that he has seen more than enough of each, he ultimately built the team around Rooney, not Gerrard. I am going with Fabio's judgement on this one.

  • Comment number 66.

    your kidding right? Rooney whilst a good player and a useful driving attacking force seems to struggle to put the ball in the net at times, even from the simplest chance.
    His talent is VASTLY overrated, much of his ability is down to clever use of strength and close control (something Mr Heskey should be observing even this late in his career) but even ignoring that, the team ethic is what is important.
    There are players in better form for England than Wayne Rooney, Defoe to name just one of them, and you insult them gravely by suggesting that without Wayne Rooney england are a substandard team

  • Comment number 67.

    It's an interesting question - to what extent can a single, explosive star be credited with winning the World Cup? History isn't as conclusive as you might think. Maradona seemed to win the WC on his own in 1986, but was the rest of the team as rubbish as we tend to say? Baggio almost did the trick in 1994, and some credit Ronaldo with Brazil's 2002 win, but is this because we have a tendency to build up stars into mythical figures? Italy lacked big stars in 2006, and the same was arguably true of West Germany in 1990 (certainly no megastars in those teams). Even Brazil in 1994 fall into that category (I wouldn't put Romario on the level of Maradona, that's for sure). Rooney might have a great world cup and prove to be a key ingredient if England do go all the way, but if he was Scottish would the Scots be potential WC winners? I tend to think it's more of a team game than we often remember, even though the explosive goalscorers are obviously a big part of a winning team. So I'd say that injuries to the likes of Gerrard, Terry and Ferdinand could be just as damaging to England's cause as losing Rooney would be. Does anyone see us winning the WC with Upson and Lescott in defence? Well yes, we actually could if the coach got the team playing in the right way for those few weeks. So yes, we could also win it without Rooney, given the right luck at the right time (don't forget how often penalty shoot-outs decide WC winners along the way) and to suggest otherwise is to overplay the importance of any one player - however good they are (and Rooney is VERY good, in my opinion).

  • Comment number 68.

    Hello Phil

    Without joining the band wagon of opinion above I have to say that I fear for England's hopes if your opinion is to be believed.

    Rooney does sadly not mean the difference between world cup success and failure. Far better strikers from other nations don't even make that difference. On the big stage, Rooney is easily neutralised and frustrated, and could even be more of a liability to the team's hopes.

    I think England are semi-final hopefuls at best, however, if they perform as a team, and do not centre their game around Rooney, they are capable of upsetting some of the top sides.

    Elevating Rooney far above his true ability and influence, merely causes false hope and is disrespectful to the rest of the squad.

    Now if Capello manages England in SA the way I hope he will, and they play as an eleven man team, I think they will do very well (semi-finals) and I will be delighted to watch them play.

    Good luck England!

  • Comment number 69.

    Well - got injured playing Portugal in the Euros 2004.

    Broke a metatarsal at the end of the season prior to 2006 - joining the camp late and being unfit.

    Third time lucky or do we just sit back and wait for the inevitable blow when he limps off with ligament damage in the 89th minute as United lead 7-1 against Stoke in the 2nd last game of the season?

  • Comment number 70.

    Unfortunately, Rooney like many of the England players become provincial
    when they put on an England jersey. England will struggle again at this world cup with or without Rooney. Perhaps one positive aspect is at least without him they should end up with 11 men on the pitch when the final whistle blows.

  • Comment number 71.

    Phil,

    Once again, England are overhyped, a world cup winning team, i think not. A successful qualifying campaign with lots of wins under their belt. All i ask, what quality teams were in this group. Absolutely zero. Croatia, not since there 1998 third place finish have they done anything. So i ask the question again, who have England beaten in the last 10years that can merit using the line "If Rooney is fit and in form England are contenders to win the World Cup."
    It doesnt matter if Wayne Rooney is 100% fit and after a 40goal season. ENGLAND WILL NOT BE CONTENDERS AT THE WORLD CUP. FACT....
    If you need to put a wager on this i will gladly accept any bet.
    England to scrape though the group stages with 1 win (6-1 demolition of Saudi Arabia, definately going to win it now), and 2 draws. Scrappy win over Romania on penaltys in the Last 16 game and then as always a 0-0 against some good team and then a penalty shoot out loss.
    Phil i have read the book already so will gladly fill you in on proceedings if you need to write anymore articles on Englands World Cup success.

    Yours truthfully.
    Your average soccer follower

  • Comment number 72.

    You're totally right man.
    Gerrard can't perform for england.... defoe isn't as creative... emile heskey is.. pah ha..... and who else is going to as influential as rooney...

    sometimes England do play REALLY well, and in these games I think we can probably do without Rooney... but to be given the best chance of winning i feel we need him. Alot.

  • Comment number 73.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 74.

    im sick and tired of the bbc's biased opinions towards english football. Wayne Rooney clearly does not have the talent to be as good as cronaldo messi, kaka, iniesta, xavi and a whole lot of other players i could have mentioned. Rooney is easily replaceable by a certain steven gerrard who is easily a better player, have u ever seen rooney dominant games like gerrard has on countless number of occasions - see the 2005 champions league final as an example. the way england play with gerrard cutting in clearly shows that without ashley cole bombing up and down the left the system would fail so please stop talking about rooney he is good but not world class. it is only in this country that rooney is thought so highly

  • Comment number 75.

    oh and for the record i am english and i am not a liverpool, chelsea fan

  • Comment number 76.

    @ 44 - Fabulousredsreds

    You must be what the Americans call "nuts". If you were honest, you would admit that Gerrard rarely turns up for England matches, let alone determines them. He is a little better for Liverpool - at least, he put in a shift in that famous CL final vs Milan, but even then he blows hot-and-cold. The proof of his inability to deliver with consistency is Liverpools lack of Premierships . . . NONE to be precise. I rest my case.

    By contrast, Rooney, with a manager who has no idea of football (yes, SAF really is clueless), still manages to shine by the sheer combination of inspiration and yes, perspiration. No one in the EPL does this, though there are more virtuoso performers out there.

  • Comment number 77.

    With Rooney England 6-1. Without Rooney anticipate 8-1. Even then the absence would probably make the rest play better!!!

  • Comment number 78.

    fabulousRedsReds - I'm going to have a wild stab in the dark and guess that you are a Liverpool fan. As highly as I rate Gerrard, I can't help but feel that your club blinkers have got the better of you. Think of it this way: think of how many quality/World Class players has Capello coached during his career. Given the fact that Capello will know fine well that Rooney's and Gerrard's best roles are very similar, and the fact that he has seen more than enough of each, he ultimately built the team around Rooney, not Gerrard. I am going with Fabio's judgement on this one.
    ______________________________________________________________

    There seems to be a media build up to 2010 already. The pundits have chosen their man based on 6 or 7 maches this season and that is Rooney. Hopefully they will repeat his name many enough times for everyone to believe that he is the best thing that has happened in recent years, and that he will bring the cup home. Well, I can't complain. At least it is not Beckham this time, although he (Becks) still has time to make that one massive 'delivery' from his right foot and we will all be made to forget about Rooney in a minute as the Beckham bandwagon gathers pace. Hope not.
    Jokes aside, I am a Liverpool fan but I respect SAF for a difference. When Ronaldo was there you knew who the main man was, there was no doubt. So you know Rooney's level. In my opinion, Gerrard is a better player than Rooney, makes better decisions, moves and motivates his team, and is a natural winner. The team should be built aroud him. Gerrard can do what he did in Isanbul in '05 and countless times for Liverpool, Rooney can't. Rooney works hard but he can't move a team, and what we are seeing from Rooney, just as Gerrard, is the finished article. I don't think Rooney will improve much from here. On that basis, club loyalties aside, Gerrard should be playing a far bigger role for England than he is allowed to. He needs more freedom to do what he does naturally. Team mates should understand this.

  • Comment number 79.

    I can't see this whole Wayne Rooney thing. Don't get me wrong, the lad's a good player, but he dissaperes far too often in the big games for me. He also has a tendancy to wander and chase the ball when he's frustrated.

  • Comment number 80.

    If we are depending on Rooney to win the World Cup then we will not win it, it is as stark as that Phil.

    Rooneys terrible performances for England were one of the main reasons England didn`t make Euro 2008, but that was hardly mentioned & Steve McClaren took all the blame.

    Has Rooney ever had a great performance against a top international team? not since Euro 2004. He has it all to prove as a top player and talk of a Maradonna type World Cup are unrealistic as he his not in that league. He his our best striker but Crouch Heskey etc., would not have made the squad in previous campaigns.

    He his great against weaker teams when he bounces all over the pitch like a schoolboy, but when good teams cut his supply off he either disappears or explodes. He flatters to deceive, he his very good but not great and only great players tend to win World Cups.

    If Gerrard Lampard and Walcott hit top form they will be equally as important. Sorry Phil but your conclusions are based on performaces against mediocre opposition.

  • Comment number 81.

    I seem to recall Walcott playing very well with Rooney in the same team. And England looking very good. Also, Owen always looks good alongside Ronney, if Owen is fit to play.

    Wasn't it Carvalho who broke Rooney's foot in Euro 2004? I thought England were going to win that tournament up until that point. They looked tremendous with Rooney(and Owen). Until Rooney got injured....

    Fredinand used to be the best at the back for England and Terry looked like an EPL duffer by comparison. What's up with Rio?

    England's keepers are dodgy. Their defence is dodgier. Those two things and the fact that Rooney (and Owen) are injury prone, will do them in.

  • Comment number 82.

    In 1966 Alf Ramsey discarded Jimmy Greaves as a striker, brought in Jack Charlton as a centre half. His reasoning was simple - the way his TEAM played. He threw out Greaves because he didn't fit in, brought in Jack Charlton 'cos he did.

    Greaves was probably the finest striker at the time - but didn't fit in. Jack Charlton was definitely not the finest defender at the time - but he fitted in.

    Will you all stop blathering about individual players. Fine as they all are, they have to fit into the way a team plays as a unit.

  • Comment number 83.

    To be fair, Phil could have knocked this up at any time in the last 2 years.

    England have many world class players. Alas do we have that little sublimeness to make or take a chance against the world's best teams. Capello's record still says no. We've been well beaten at times and taken apart at other times.

    Its Brazil or Spain. The only teams with the touch, magic, tactical know-how and belief.

  • Comment number 84.

    55. At 7:37pm on 13 Oct 2009, Coweslepe wrote:
    Also, split-infinitives aside, the following sentence is nonsensical:

    'Heady days indeed for seasoned England observers who would have struggled to detect "Style A" under previous regimes, even with the benefit of a high-intensity microscope, and a small insight into Capello's meticulous methods.'

    To which subject exactly is the coordinating conjunction attached? This is poor composition.
    ________________

    Everything after "observers" to "microscope" is a subordinate clause. Phil just missed the comma denoting it, a minor mistake. He cut out "It was" because it's not necessary, and split infinitives are not bad style. We speak English, not Latin.

  • Comment number 85.

    Interesting that quite a lot of people posting here actually don't appear to rate Wayne Rooney too highly. Presumably they wouldn't want him to turn up and play for their club either then.

    England have two undisputed world-class players in Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. Frank Lampard is also outstanding, although if I was told I could only sign one player and the choice was between Gerrard and Lampard, I would go for Gerrard every time.

    Before the Chelsea fans wade in, this is a purely personal opinion and a reflection of my admiration for Gerrard as opposed to the slightest criticism of Lampard.

    I do believe, however, that the presence of players of the calibre of Lampard means that England could actually manouevre their way around the potential absence of Gerrard.

    This is not the case with Rooney. If he is missing, there is no-one near him when it comes world-class English attacking talent. He would be impossible to replace.

    Or maybe he is as ordinary as some of you out there seem to suggest! I know which side of the argument I come down on and I will not be swayed on it.

  • Comment number 86.

    apologies in advance...

    but erm YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWN !

  • Comment number 87.

    " appear to rate Wayne Rooney too highly. "

    Spot On Phil:

    hence i have no comment worthwhile to make on this subject.

  • Comment number 88.

    I don't think England are going to win the World Cup. I will get that out of the way first of. But if they are going to have any chance of winning the World Cup, it is a perfectly reasonable thing to say that Rooney needs to be there fit and on form. Whether you think he is world class or not is not the issue, he is England's most talented player, of course Gerard is a brilliant player, but if he was not at the World Cup his loss would not be felt as much as the loss of Wayne Rooney, for one simple reason, England have a certain Frank Lampard who can easily fill in that role. Who would fill the gap that Rooney would leave? Peter Crouch? Carlton Cole? Defoe? That is laughable. Man United are not the same without Rooney, and England certainly aren't, and im pretty confident that point will be proved against Belarus. Im from Northern Ireland and I think its about time England fans realise how lucky you guys are to have a fella like Rooney playing for England, he brings so much. SO stop moaning to McNulty, get behind your team and enjoy the World Cup! I wish Northern Ireland were there! And I tell you what, we would be behind every single player, no matter how good or bad they were if they did make it!

  • Comment number 89.

    ok just realised that McNulty has basically just posted the exact same argument as I have just submitted...for that I am sorry!

  • Comment number 90.

    Yes Rooney is perhaps one of england's ELEVEN best players but to suggest england cannot win the world cup without him is insulting to the rest of the players in the squad.

    We have mentioned how the Heskey - Owen partnership used to work well, so doesn't that appear to be the answer if Rooney is not fit??? Yes I know you need Owen to be fit, etc., etc. but still it's not often we have to do without Rooney anyway and having him with us still doesn't put us on a level playing field with the likes of Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, even France or Italy quite yet, I think england making the World Cup quarter-finals again will be more than a huge success and we shouldn't expect anything more.

  • Comment number 91.

    England will never win worldcup

  • Comment number 92.

    Again a repetitive blog from McNulty. I seem to recall you saying this at least 5 times in the past year.

    Please write something original.

  • Comment number 93.

    Phil I disagree with you regarding Gerrard! I can't think of a competetive game where Gerrard has turned it on for England! Not in WC06 or EC04 for that matter!

  • Comment number 94.

    I'm chuffed that my licence fee is spent to produce such insightful articles!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 95.

    Typical lazy punditry. A couple of facts Rooney has a scoring rate of less than 1 in 2 which is not top rate. England have a BETTER record when Rooney does not play. Just a couple of annoying facts to get in the way of the normal hype.

    If being hyped up by the British media made a player world class, Rooney would be the new Pele, Cruyff and Maradonna roled into one.

    Unfortunately it doesn't and what we are left with is a workhorse and not a thouroughbred. He doesen't do special things witha football, he just does ordinary, he works very hard , but at the top level that is not enough.

    He does not turna game with something special, not for years, in fact only a very few times ever and not for the last couple of years. He has NEVER been chosen by his felloe Pro's in their team of the year, maybe it's a secret ballot.

    There are at least 6 strikers in the Premiership who are better.

    He is not the most talented English player. Joe Cole. He is not even 2nd.

  • Comment number 96.

    While it cannot be denied that Rooney has and will play a crucial role in the team for the forth coming world cup I don't see the advantage of articles such as this. I mean does the media really intend to heap the expectations of the entire nation onto the shoulders of one young man? isn't there perhaps any more pressure we could weigh him down with?

    Seems to me he is going to be built up into the fall guy one again, I envisage a blood thirsty media rubbing their hands in anticipation at the potential of a mighty fall for the boy.

    The bottom line is that its a team game and its up to the team to perform Rooney isn't going to win this competition by himself, if Rooney doesn't perform the team should be able to get by, if not they should hang their heads in shame.

  • Comment number 97.

    rooney is hardely the world class playa every 1 makes him out to be, he doesnt score enough for a striker and y the hell do people keep forgeting theo walcott is a striker theo and rooney would scare any defence i mean come on possibly the fastes player in the world and hes not even gettin played in his natural position hes crap as a winger and we have loads of em mainly swp n lennon who play better than walcott there so giv im a chance as apartner to rooney it makes sense long term to, rooney 23 theo 20

  • Comment number 98.

    This is nothing short of laughable.

  • Comment number 99.

    Mr McNulty has chosen a subject which is guaranteed to create a swarm of posts to this forum. The opinions expressed represent an extremely wide view of players, tactics and formations but many hint at the real key, which is the wonderful Fabio. England may or may not win the World Cup but he has created the opportunity.

    Many of the players have been tried under former regimes but he has instilled a belief in individuals and the squad as a whole which has not been seen for many years. There is a confidence in the squad, and fringe players, that rises above the absence of any player in the starting eleven.

    The blog openly cites Rooney as being the only English World Class striker. If one may consider Rooney in such a 'limited' role, it may be fairly said that there are many 'pure strikers' who are superior; Torres & Villa come readily to mind. However; if one takes a rather broader view and looks at him as more of an advanced midfielder, his stature then increases enormously. His personal ball skills are not those of a Messi for instance but when allied to his determination, devensive ethic and tremendous engine he may indeed be raised to truly World Class.

    Another England player who exhibits similar skills, desire and work rate is Hargreaves. If he can overcome his horrendous injuries, as his determination seems to suggest, there is another potentially World Class player to add to Fabio's squad. Add to that, another arguably World Class player in Joe Cole, and England has a wonderfully painful task of omitting 'World Class' players from the starting line-up.

    What a terrible delemma for any manager!

    Several posts have returned to the old sore of goalies. However; if one eliminates the top four in the world; of whom the Spaniard and the Italian seem to stand out; the England hopefulls match the rest.

    The back four as a unit may be considered at least the equal of any in the world. In addition, there are at least four reserves of extremely good quality.

    That takes us back to the strike force. Heskey has to this point been the most used target man but there are two others; Crouch & Cole; who can operate in the same function, albeit in differing styles. Heskey stands alone in shear power but Cole has better first touch and dribbling ability. Crouch is the most ungainly but his all-around abilities bely his appearance. He has the skill to collect the ball and shield it by the use of his bony parts for the two or three seconds needed for his team-mates to catch up. He is also quicker to take chances than the other two.

    With all of the other options not discussed here, plus any that may emerge in the coming months, Fabio's task is indeed daunting.

    Do England have a chance in the World Cup, with or without Rooney?

    Of course!

  • Comment number 100.

    8 System J

    Well said mate!!!

 

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