Tag: Soccer

Destination Russia

So it’s official- England will be at the 2018 World Cup finals. The next question is who will make the squad. Using the tabloids favourite cliche of airport terminology to illustrate who gets in the squad (or as they say who makes the plane) here’s a quick guide to who’s in, out and maybe

Boarding Pass for Moscow Domodedovo:

If you’re here then barring injury or a dramatic loss of form you will go to the World Cup with England;

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Jack Butland

Fullbacks: Kyle Walker

Centre backs: Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, John Stones

Central midfielders: Eric Dier

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Dele Alli, Adam Lallana,

Forwards: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jamie Vardy

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Sat in the Terminal 5 Departure Lounge:

If you’re here you’re close to going- maybe one good appearance from boarding the plane or perhaps in a 50/50 battle with another player for your place- nobody wants to be 24th man for England- somebody on this list will be;

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Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Fraser Forster, Tom Heaton

Fullbacks: Nathaniel Clyne, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Ryan Bertrand, Luke Shaw

Centre backs: Michael Keane, Chris Smalling, Harry Maguire

Central midfielders: Nathaniel Chalobah, Jake Livermore, Fabian Delph, Harry Winks, Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jesse Lingard, Ross Barkley

Forwards: Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe

Rushing for the Heathrow Express:

If you’re here you might go but you’ve got a lot of work to do. Maybe you’re a young player trying to break through or you’re settling at a new club or returning from injury- it’s a long time until the manager names his 23- at this point in the build up to Euro 2016 Marcus Rashford was still in the Man Utd youth team!

Goalkeepers: Freddie Woodman

Fullbacks: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Aaron Cresswell, Ryan Sessegnon, Ben Chilwell

Centre backs: Jamaal Lascelles, Alfie Mawson

Central midfielders: James Ward-Prowse, Danny Drinkwater, Tom Davies, Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Theo Walcott, Nathan Redmond, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Demarai Gray

Forwards: Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Solanke

Boarding the flight to Maui:

If you’re here you ain’t going to the World Cup (this time at least) perhaps you went before on those brief trips to Brazil or South Africa or you’re still young and may spend Christmas 2022 in Qatar. OK the vast majority of English footballers won’t be representing their country next summer in Russia. But if you’re like stars here you are a highly paid well known (and maybe even liked) footballer and Hawaii is lovely in June.

Goalkeepers: Ben Foster

Fullbacks: Glenn Johnson, Leighton Baines, Mason Holgate

Centre backs: Ben Mee, Rob Holding, Callum Chambers

Central midfielders: Lewis Cook, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Jonjo Shelvey, Tom Carroll

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Marc Albrighton, Ademola Lookman, Josh Onamah, Andros Townsend, Scott Sinclair

Forwards: Andy Carroll, Jay Rodriguez, Andre Gray. Saido Berahino

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World Cup qualifying- final round

Qualifying is almost done bar the playoffs. By Wednesday at least 22 teams will have secured their passage to Russia with only 6 playoff matches and a final round of games in Africa to play on November.

Who’s made it?- Russia, Belgium, Germany, England, Spain, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nigeria

What’s left to play for?

Europe:

Group A

France held their nerve to claim a vital win in Bulgaria and stay top with only a home win over Belarus required to go through. The big story however is Holland are almost out- after Sweden romped to an 8-0 win over Luxembourg and the Dutch narrowly won 3-1 in Belarus , they now need to beat Sweden by 6 goals to make the playoffs.

Group B

Switzerland and Portugal will square off for top spot in Portugal on Tuesday night. Saturday night saw the European Champions needing to bring Ronaldo off the bench to beat the mighty Andorra whilst the Swiss rolled Hungary 5-2. His royal CR7ness will need to come up with the goods on Tuesday if Portugal are to secure the win they need with Switzerland only needing a draw. Whoever loses out is guaranteed a play off spot,

Group C

Germany are through after their convincing win in Belfast and whilst Northern Ireland are guaranteed second place they require a result in Norway tonight to ensure they avoid the dreaded lowest placed runner up spot and miss the playoffs- a draw should be enough for Micheal O’Neill’s men.

Group D

It may be a fixture more famous for rugby than football but Ireland visit the Principality Stadium for the winner takes all (well more likely a playoff spot) game with Wales. Wales currently hold the edge but both need to win as a draw may see the Welsh finish as the lowest placed runner up. Serbia missed the chance to secure the group by losing in Austria this week but have a second chance at home to lowly Georgia on Monday night.

Group E

Poland will secure qualification with a draw at home this afternoon against third placed Montenegro, meanwhile resurgent Denmark will guarantee themselves a playoff berth with a home win over Romania.

Group F

Given England have scored 4 goals in injury time and Scotland 5 after the 84th minute we should have expected Harry Kane’s 93rd minute winner and Chris Martin (not the one from Coldplay) forcing an 87th minute Slovakian own goal. It all means England have qualified and Scotland will make the playoffs if they win in Slovenia tonight. A draw almost certainly won’t be enough for the Scots given third place Slovakia fave the open goal of a home game with Malta.

Group G

It’s done and dusted- Spain are there after Italy laughably failed to beat Macedonia at home. Italy have to make do with a playoff spot- needless to say they’ll be the team to avoid.

Group H

Belgium had already qualified but still provided some fun (Gareth Southgate take note) with a 4-3 win over Bosnia. Greece will finish second with a home win over Gibraltar but may need to top up their goal difference to avoid the lowest placed runner up spot and elimination.

Group I

Iceland will make their World Cup debut with a home win over last placed Kosovo on Monday night. Meanwhile Croatia travel to Kiev needing a point to secure second place- a win for Ukraine will see them leapfrog Croatia and claim a possible playoff.

South America

Argentina are in deep trouble- they lie sixth in the group and will be out if they don’t make it to at least fifth. The good news is they have their destiny in their own hands- a win and they will finish at least fifth, the bad news is the game is Ecuador away (at altitude) where they often struggle. Elsewhere Brazil qualified years ago and Uruguay are practically there due to their strong goal difference. Colombia face Peru with the winner guaranteed qualification meanwhile Chile need a result away to Brazil to make sure of a top 5 finish. Finally Paraguay’s late goals against Colombia gives them a shout of a playoff spot.

Africa

Congratulations to Nigeria who’ve secured qualification with a game to spare. Tunisia, Egypt and Senegal all look good to join them but will have to wait until November to make sure. The real intrigue is in Group C where the tradition African powerhouse Ivory Coast are a point behind Morocco with 1 game to play, and the last game is: Ivory Coast hosting Morocco. Watch this space.

Concaaf

The USA finally got going with a 4-1 home win over Panama which puts them on course to join Mexico and Costa Rica in the finals- a draw away to Trinidad & Tobago will be enough. Panama and Honduras meanwhile are level points for the playoff spot with Panama holding a stronger goal difference, they host Mexico and costs respectively on Wednesday when the group concludes.

Asia

Syria scraped a 1-1 Home draw (played in Malaysia) against Australia with the return leg in Sydney on Tuesday. The Socceroos will be hit favourites to progress and face the 4th place Concaaf team.

Oceania

This week New Zealand will finally discover which South American will knock them out, sorry lads.

England v Slovenia preview

So here we are England will seal their 6th successive World Cup appearance and 9th in the last 10 with a win at Wembley against Slovenia.

With a 5 point lead in Group F and a big goal difference advantage over the rest a point will almost certainly be enough. But against a side ranked 55th in the world a win at Wembley will be expected and for Gareth Southgate a perfect sign off on a successful qualifying campaign in front of 80,000 Home fans. But mess things up and a frosty night in Lithuania awaits to stumble over the line.

Despite their low ranking Slovenia gave England a rough time in a 0-0 draw in Ljubljana a year ago and sit only a point behind second placed Slovakia so arrive at Wembley with qualifying ambitions of their own. Their brightest star is Athletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak who’s impressed in Atheltico’s recent run of Champions League campaigns. Going forward the main creative threat will come from Serie A regular Josip Ilicic- who clocked up 100 appearances for Fiorentina before moving on to Atalanta this summer.

History

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The draw Slovenia gained last year was the first time they managed to avoid defeat to England- losing the previous 4 meetings. The most notable being the final group match of the 2010 World Cup when Jermain Defoe stabbed home the only goal of the game and secured England’s only win of a largely awful campaign. More recently the sides met in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. England came from behind to win 3-1 at Wembley and then 3-2 in Slovenia when Jack Wilshere bagged a memorable second half brace.

Team News

Since the squad was announced last Thursday Fabian Delph and Phil Jones have been ruled out with injury whilst Dele Alli will serve his one match ban for flipping the bird in the Slovakia game last month. It’s a particular blow for Delph who was likely to play following his good run of form for Manchester City. But Delph’s injury is short term and he should be back for City when the Premier League resumes, he currently looks a key component to Pep Guardiola’s side so should get his chance in the November internationals.

England Squad Takeaways

The late call up to the squad is Tottenham’s Harry Winks who’ll be hoping to make his debut. Winks has been promoted from the Under 21’s and with Delph joining a lengthy injury list in midfield has been given his chance sooner than expected, but the talented young playmaker looks a confident player who may well grab his opportunity with both hands and it is good to see a young player with potential getting the late call up rather than a veteran with little upside.

There’s been no word yet on team selection but inevitably there’ll be a lot of focus on the goalkeepers. Southgate backed Joe Hart after his error against Scotland in the summer but then was partly to blame for Slovakia’s goal at Wembley. Southgate needs to give his other keepers a chance with at best 7 games remaining before the World Cup (assuming we make it!) I’d like to see Jack Butland given the start but I suspect the manager will stick with Hart.

Elsewhere the absence of Jones means a change in central defence- the favourite must be John Stones after a good start to the season with City and his ball playing skills should be a huge asset against a side likely to sit deep for long spells.

Prediction

Slovenia will come looking for a point and hit on the break when they can. I expect England will score in the first half and should run out comfortable winners 2-0.

 

World Cup Qualifying Part 2: All Around The World

Away from Europe qualifying is reaching its climax across the globe, so in brief who’s on their way to Russia?

Whose made it?

Brazil, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia & Iran

South America update:

With Brazil home and hosed Uruguay are the only other team who can guarantee a place this round with an away win at Venezuela. Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Chile are playing musical chairs with Colombia & Peru currently sat in the automatic qualifying places and Argentina in the playoff place whilst Confederation Champions Chile are currently set to miss out. Chile host Peru in the game of the week but this will go down to the final run off games next week but surely Messi won’t miss out will he?

Argentina-AP

Asia Update:

The groups are finished and the 4 qualifiers confirmed, Now it’s down to the playoff between Australia and war torn Syria, with the Socceroos overwhelming favourites. Their reward will be a playoff with the 4th placed Concaaf side speaking of which…

Concaaf Update:

Costs Rica will join Mexico in the finals if they beat lowly Honduras this week. The real story here is the US who’ve endured a torrid campaign and currently sit in the playoff spot a point behind Panama who visit the States this week. The Americans need the win  and should have enough to push Panama down to the playoffs.

Oceania Update:

New Zealand trounced the Soloman Islands are now await the 5th place side from South America. Clearly the All Whites would prefer to play Peru to Argentina. But New Zealand go in on good form and won’t be the pushover some have predicated.

Africa Update:

The final round of African groups are only 6 games long meaning with 2 games to go a lot can change and nobody is secure yet. Tunisia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Egypt are all current group favourites. Group D remains the curious one with the romantics favourite Burkina Faso currently top on goal difference from the Cape Verde Islands whilst Senegal and South Africa have to replay their game from earlier this year after some suspicious refereeing.

World Cup Qualifying Round 9: The draw takes shape

World Cup qualifying Part 2: Rest of the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing a fading star

As Gareth Southgate moves on from Wayne Rooney I’ve delved into the archives to look back at how other managers handled fading stars either easing them towards the door or trying to keep them in the room.

Bobby Robson & Kevin Keegan

When- 1982. Incoming England manager Bobby Robson felt it was time to put the nations favourite footballer out to pasture and decided not to select him for his first England squad.

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How did Kev take it?

Really badly. Neither The FA nor Robson told Keegan of the decision in advance so Keegan found out when the squad was announced. He gave an on the spot reporter an earful of his anger saying “What upset me is the way I heard about it. I mean a 10p phone call from the FA is not a lot to ask.” A few weeks earlier at St James Park, Robson had indicated to Keegan he would be in stating after the game “see you soon,” it’s fair to say Robson and the FA could have handled it a lot better. Meanwhile there was condemnation in Robson’s hometown of Newcastle over dropping the new Geordie Messiah, with hate mail sent to the new England Manager.

 

How did it work out

Not great, Robson stuck with his decision to leave 31 year old Keegan in the past but failed to qualify for Euro 84 despite a qualifying group that put ‘England on Easy Street,’ according to The Sun. It wasn’t the last case of hubris on the tabloid’s back page but nobody saw Preben Elkjaer and Denmark coming and they took the group whilst England stayed home.

From then until Italia ’90 Robson was a walking target for a critical press, an adversarial relationship that may just have started when the ever popular Keegan was dropped.

Wether Keegan would have made the difference is harder to say he was by that time playing in the Second Division with Newcastle before taking them to promotion and finally departing St James Park by helicopter after his final game just weeks before Euro ’84.

Graham Taylor & Gary Lineker

When- 1992. With 28 minutes left of the last group match of Euro ’92 England needed a goal to qualify for the semi finals. Taylor decided to take off Lineker and replace him with Alan Smith. Lineker had announced pre tournament he’d retire at the end of it meaning he’d never wear the Three Lions again if England went out.

Gary Lineker

How did Gary take it?

He gave a surprised look when his number was called but trotted off without complaint. After Taylor’s untimely death earlier this year Lineker tweeted his sadness at the his former manager’s passing, when one tweeting twit suggested Gary should have hated him Lineker gave a typically sensible response stating ‘Why? because he subbed me once! he made me captain and I’ll always be grateful for that.’

How did it work out

Badly- Smith didn’t get a decent shot off and Tomas Brolin scored late to send England packing and the turnip was born.

Glenn Hoddle & Paul Gascoigne 

When- 1998. With Gascoigne struggling for fitness and Hoddle needing to trim his World Cup squad to 23 the manager decided to put on a Kenny G record and calmly tell Gazza he was out.

How did Gazza take it?

Liam Gallagher style. Gazza went bezerk allegedly trashing Hoddle’s room before being lead away in tears.

How did it work out

In footballing terms Hoddle was almost certainly right. By 1998 Gazza was a shadow of his former self, and a move to Middlesborough aimed at cementing his World Cup place had yielded only 7 appearances. Then a late night session followed by a stop at a kebab shop made the back pages and Hoddle made his mind up.

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However Hoddle handled Gazza’s delicate psyche very poorly.  Clearly Gascoigne thought he could do anything and still get in the side and Hoddle should have managed him better. The decision to cut the Gazza-esque Matthew Le Tissier from the squad two weeks earlier suggests Hoddle just assumed Gascoigne would be going to France ’98 and had no contingency if things went pear shaped.

It’s hard to believe the whole episode didn’t have a negative impact on morale as the squad headed for France particularly amongst the senior players who’d played with Gascoigne for years. In Hindsight reprimanding the wayward star earlier and trying to pull him into line with a credible alternative in the background would have worked better.

Steve McClaren & David Beckham

When- 2006, Steve McClaren names his first England squad and omits David Beckham. It’s seen largely as a press friendly move, the hacks of Fleet Street having spent much of the previous two years insisting Beckham was passed it.

How did David take it?

Beckham took the snub with his usual good grace insisting he would work hard to get back into the managers plans. McClaren perhaps noting the Robson/ Keegan fall out notified Beckham in advance to explain his decision.

How did it work out

Badly- for McClaren. England’s results went downhill and the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign quickly unravelled, unsurprisingly the press were no longer saluting his decision to drop Becks.

McClaren didn’t help his cause by explaining in a BBC interview that he dropped Beckham because he was looking for more pace and direct running at opposing fullbacks  from the right wing. A fair point, but for the fact he then played Steven Gerrard on the right of midfield nullifying his own point.

McClaren back tracked and Beckham was recalled 6 months later a move widely seen as McClaren undermining his own authority. Beckham was by the resumption of qualifying playing for LA Galaxy and returned too late to save his beleaguered boss and England failed to make Euro 2008.

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Fabio Capello & David Beckham (again) 

When- 2008, When Fabio Capello took over from McClaren the first player the press asked about was Beckham (now aged 33 and playing in LA). Capello decided to retain Beckham but with a notable caveat- Beckham needed to be playing top-level football.

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How did David take it?

He spent the US offseason and start of the next season on loan at AC Milan. There was an irony to Beckham’s plight- Capello had been his manager at Real Madrid when Beckham was dropped by Real & England. Sensing his options in Europe being reduced to middle tier sides Beckham opted for his American adventure. Of course no sooner had he signed  a pre contract agreement with the Galaxy he was back in Capello’s team and he played a key role as the La Liga title followed 5 months later.  Now Capello wanted him back in Europe.

How did it work out

Pretty well, Beckham enjoyed a fruitful spell at the San Siro winning over a sceptical Milan fanbase and continuing his England career mainly as an impact substitute, providing calm ball retention as England looked to see out tight games.

It cost Beckham in LA with a chorus of boos upon his return to California but he soon saw out the storm and signed up for a second stint in Milan in the spring before the 2010 World Cup. This time disaster stuck, Beckham suffered a torn achilles and his World Cup dream together with his England career was over. Capello showing an unusually sympathetic streak brought Becks to South Africa in an unofficial capacity, not that it did England much good.

Roy Hodgson & Wayne Rooney

When- 2016 In the build up to the European Championships England traveled to a friendly in Germany without injured skipper Wayne Rooney. The ensuing 3-2 win inspired by new boys Kane, Alli & Dier got an excitable press suggesting England should move Rooney to the bench. Roy wasn’t having it.

How did Roy manage it?

He changed formation to try and accommodate Rooney, Kane, Alli and Vardy. First he tried a diamond with Rooney at the tip, Alli further back and Kane/ Vardy up front- this resulted in Vardy on the wing. He continued to tinker before deciding on 4-3-3 with Rooney and Alli together in midfield.

How did it work out

It showed promise in the Euro 2016 opener against Russia but got gradually worse, Alli was shunted further wide, Rooney played deep and gave the ball away and Kane was running on empty. We went out to Iceland and Hodgson’s decision to try square pegs in round wholes to accommodate Rooney was derided whilst the manager resigned on the spot.

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Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: It’s grim up North London

It’s Groundhog Day at Arsenal, after the usual loss at Stoke came the gutless first visit to a top 6 rival.

The build up was dominated by two selection shocks, Liverpool dropping of keeper Simon Mignolet and Arsenals’s of record signing Alexandre Lacazette.

The early skirmishes saw Arsenal struggle to cope with Liverpool’s pace and movement leading to an Emre Can header whilst Danny Welbeck blew a presentable chance for the gunners. On 10 minutes the ever dangerous Mo Saleh should have made the breakthrough with a close range effort saved by Petr Cech.

The inevitable Liverpool goal duly arrived after just 16 minutes, the inventive Can sent Joe Gomez away down the right and his inch perfect cross was nodded home by Roberto Firmino.

Arsenal looked toothless and Liverpool were threatening to run riot. But Arsenal got a foothold in the game via a typical Karius goalkeeping mix up that although cleared sent a shudder through the crowd and Liverpool defence.

But the nerves were short lived, on 40 minutes Liverpool broke from their own box through the power of Can then the pace of Firmino and finally the beautiful angled finish of Sadio Mane.

Coquelin came on at the start of the second half and Arsenal at least showed early bite and application, but the only threats to Karius’ goal were again self inflicted as Welbeck almost got in from a casual back pass.

But on 56 minutes Liverpool sealed the win when they broke from an Arsenal corner and the excellent Salah burned past the Arsenal defence and picked his spot 3-0.

From then on it was just a case of how many as Liverpool passed their way around the training cones in blue shirts posing as Arsenal’s midfield.

Daniel Sturridge came on after 73 minutes and 4 minutes later he’d scored after another devastating counter orchestrated by Firmino and Can and ending with a fizzing cross from Salah nodded home for Sturridge’s 99th Liverpool goal 4-0 and that’s how it finished.

For Liverpool early season scepticism has given way to euphoria having moved up to 2nd in the League and a new Champions League adventure ready to begin. If they could add a top class keeper say Jack Butland and a dominant centre half say a certain Southampton player they will be in title contention.

As for Arsenal the next phase of Groundhog Day will see a trolley dash this Thursday and the ‘Wenger Out’ banners adorning the Emirates Stadium.

There was little for Wenger to take from this, with only Welbeck showing any hunger or fight. Arsenal’s midfield simply didn’t track back and Alexis Sanchez looks to have given up.

Arsenal’s FA Cup final display illustrated there is a good side in there somewhere but whether it’s the manger, players or boardroom malaise there’s something fundamentally wrong, I doubt it can be fixed over the international break.

Farewell Wayne

 

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Imagine my surprise when the article I was writing about the merits of Wayne Rooney’s imminent England recall were torpedoed by the announcement Rooney was retiring from international football.

It’s the right decision for Rooney, for Everton and probably England too. Rooney has got himself in condition, found form and is rekindling his old flame with Everton, good luck to him.

The challenge of a 38 game league campaign plus cups plus Europa League is a sizeable undertaking for a 31 year old without the additional demand of internationals. If he ends  Everton’s 22 year trophy drought it will provide a final flourish to a glorious career.

Yet somehow Rooney has never quite become the loved figure his record seems to merit. As has been poured over this summer following his departure from Old Trafford, he left Manchester United with the clubs goalscoring record, a truckload of medals and accolades but never seemed to quite have the love of the Old Trafford faithful afforded Charlton, Best, Law & Ronaldo.

His England career will inevitably be summed up with this sort of sentence- He’s England’s record goalscorer and he never delivered in a major tournament. It’s the Rooney paradox.

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Rooney arrived with England to tremendous hype- the final piece of the golden generation jigsaw, the superstar to bring glory to England’s hugely talented side. Rooney’s first tournament with England was by far the best- setting Euro 2004 alight with  three stunning displays and 4 goals from the group phase. But then came the first metatarsal injury in the quarter finals and his tournament came to an abrupt end.

In 2006 he suffered another metatarsal break at the tail end of Manchester United’s season and the nation went into a month long ‘will he won’t he go debate’. What’s alarming looking back at the 2006 media furore is I can’t remember a single journalist or pundit giving serious consideration to what England would do without him. But it seemed the nation didn’t need to worry, Rooney was training and declared ‘injury free’ by Sven so it was panic over.

Of course the term ‘injury free’ was carefully selected and really meant he wasn’t match fit or even fully recovered. He was kept out of England’s opening game but brought off the bench in the next and it became evident quickly he was at best 50% fit, his frustration grew and ended in a red card in the quarter finals.

The biggest scar on Rooney’s England career (and many others) came in South Africa in 2010. Rooney arrived at the tournament England’s great hope, but left with 4 appearances no goals and no assists. Again a pre tournament injury meant he wasn’t 100% fit but that didn’t explain why he suddenly couldn’t trap a ball, his post match rant about supporters after an insipid 0-0 draw with Algeria didn’t help his standing.

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Fabio Capello kept faith with Rooney for Euro 2012 qualifying and Rooney rewarded him with goals, but in England’s final qualifier for Euro 2012 Rooney picked up his second England red cad- with a 2 match suspension slapped on as punishment. England started the tournament well picking up 4 points from 2 Rooneyless games, new manager Roy Hodgson brought Rooney back straight away but again a lack of match sharpness told. Alex Ferguson always maintained Rooney needed games to reach his maximum level and was not a player who could make an immediate impact, it’s hard to argue with his assessment.

And so to Brazil 2014, Rooney’s last chance to make a major impact at the World Cup, sadly the England squad of 2014 was a pale imitation of 2006 with few major stars. A tough draw did for Hodgson’s limited side but notably England’s only goals came from a Rooney cross against Italy and his neat finish against Uruguay, had he been in a better side maybe that would’ve been his tournament.

In 2015 Rooney became England’s record goalscorer by despatching a penalty against Switzerland in Euro qualifying. By the time England arrived at Euro 2016 a new generation of strikers were available to England: Kane, Rashford & Vardy. Hodgson shuffled Rooney into midfield with initial success but when England crashed into the Icelandic iceberg Rooney was heavily criticised.

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In 2016/17 Rooney’s form faded and new England manager Gareth Southgate wisely dropped him, Rooney to his credit took it professionally and got on with it. Ironically  Southgate wanted to recall Rooney this week when Wayne decided it was time to go.

It’ll be interesting to hear Southgate’s thoughts on Rooney at tomorrow’s squad announcement, was the proposed recall with the World Cup in mind or a reward for his club form this season? Southgate had always maintained he would recall Rooney if his form merited inclusion.

Part of the conundrum with England was his various England managers (he played for 6) had different ideas about where to play him; Sven saw him as a deep lying forward, Capello an out and out number 9, whilst Hodgson eventually put him in central midfield having previously played him as a striker, wide attacker and number 10.

Another issue was Rooney’s lack of tactical discipline, he always seemed to follow the ball rather than hold his position, the worst example coming in 2014 against Italy where he wad deployed on the left of a 4-2-3-1 but failed to provide Leighton Baines with cover and Italy cashed in.

All that being said Rooney was a fine player for England lighting up Euro 2004, many a night at Wembley and dragging England’s chestnuts out of 1numerous qualification fires. While he was never quite the Leo Messi he was once hailed but he was a great international player.

I’ve said before he reminds me of former Spain & Real Madrid striker Raul- a creative forward with an eye for goal who left the Bernabeu with a bookful of records and a suitcase crammed with medals. For Spain he enjoyed a hugely credible career playing 100+ times and setting a new goal scoring record but was never quite the  national saviour he was hailed and never got beyond the quarter finals of a major tournament- sound familiar?

Interestingly Rooney’s resignation statement ended with this reference “One day the dream will come true and I look forward to being there as a fan – or in any capacity” referring to the possibility of England winning something. Is he hinting at a coaching career? Maybe not but it’s important Rooney passes on his knowledge of international football to England’s next generation and remains visible at St George’s Park perhaps helping the juniors or even just giving talks about his England career.

Rooney was a great servant to England and Gary Lineker was probably right in saying we have under appreciated him. But it’s the right time for England and it’s most famous player to move on.