Cooney and Black

England won the World Cup without Greaves, the greatest scorer of his generation. Ramsey took a gamble then. Isn’t it time for Hodgson to do the same with Rooney?

Roy Hodgson

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ROY HODGSON has a lot in common with Ed Miliband. Both are team leaders under pressure, under suspicion and with lots to prove to the sporting and political public.

Nobody is quite sure whether Hodgson is the man to still lead England, and there are growing concerns about his ability to live up to the expectations the FA have of him.

Meanwhile, Miliband is regularly being urged to fall on his sword, apparently discredited among a growing number of Labour MP’s concerned at his lack of proficiency to inspire his party.

It might be a question of who goes first. But, more importantly, there is another key figure who might well beat both of them to the pearl-handled pistol.

Is it not time for Hodgson to look carefully at Wayne Rooney – study him in close up, and decide whether the time has arrived to pick an England side that doesn’t include its captain?

Rooney has 43 international goals, but he is 29 in two weeks, and there are suspicions that we may have seen the best of him. Although he is closing in on Bobby Charlton’s England record of 49 goals, and has scored in England’s last two internationals, there are worrying signs that that cutting edge that made him such a stand-out player has been dulled.

Hodgson insists he plays for his country because he is England’s best performer. But individuals do not always fit successfully into a team pattern.

Many would like to see Danny Welbeck up front with Daniel Sturridge, and before long Hodgson may well decide to experiment.

Rooney will be 33 by the time the next World Cup comes around in 2018. So perhaps we are seeing the start of the beginning of the end.

The Rooney of two years ago would have plundered goals against San Marino and Estonia. Instead, he produced one from the penalty spot and another from a free kick aided and abetted by poor goalkeeping.

Hodgson must have seen for himself Rooney’s laboured displays against the kind of teams he should have destroyed. It will cast a long shadow against England’s results.

And maybe England would have done better with the emphasis more on team play. After all, when England won the World Cup in 1966, it was with a team that had inferior players to, for instance, Argentina, but had a system they were comfortable with and therefore were successful.

Rooney has had his hair restyled and the rumours are he’s also received botox to smooth out the lines in his forehand. Ageing lines inevitably accompany stress, and there is a constant battle to keep his weight down and his fitness up.

He’s been going now since he was 17 -that’s 12 years of exposure in the most physically demanding League in Europe. So the questions are being asked: will he ever be as good again? And is it time to learn to live without him?

After all, England have virtually qualified for the European Championships. This is the perfect time to see if Hodgson can make do without a player who is no longer in his prime.

The new manager at Manchester United has had an impact at Old Trafford. Louis van Gaal will have no qualms about leaving out Rooney should his form show signs of decline.

Will Hodgson follow suit? A uncomplicated man, the England boss has been showing signs of pressure, too. It’s suspected that he too harbours suspicions that his Golden Boy has started to look more than a little tarnished.

The body language Hodgson displays is hardly that of a man comfortable with what he sees. Yes, England are winning matches, but there has scarcely been a performance that suggests we are building into a formidable side.

Rooney could be the first problem and yet in a month’s time, if the past is any consideration, his name will be first on the team sheet for the Euro qualifier against Slovenia. Shouldn’t Hodgson be looking at alternatives?

Rooney, as I said, is unlikely to be around for the big event in Russia. Think about it realistically. Not even a man of his considerable strength can keep fully fit and free from injury as time catches up with him.

Do we need him, can we do without him? England won the World Cup without Jimmy Greaves, the greatest goalscorer of his generation. Ramsey took a gamble then. Isn’t the time right for Hodgson to do the same?

 

 

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