Should Wayne Rooney play for England at Euro 2016?

By on April 28, 2016

England Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney, current England captain and record England goal scorer with fifty-one goals in one hundred and nine appearances, has enjoyed a great career but many critics argue that his best form, that which he has shown for his club Manchester United, has been lacking on the international stage.

In 2002 at the tender age of sixteen, Rooney first emerged as a great young talent for Everton, scoring an incredible last minute winner against Arsenal, which made him the youngest ever scorer in the history of the Premier League (at that time). He continued to play well for Everton, attracting the attention of other clubs and earned himself an England call up for the 2004 European Championships. Here he gave what many claim to be his best ever performances in an England shirt, as he became the tournament’s youngest ever scorer and was named in the UEFA team of the tournament, despite England being knocked out on penalties in the quarter finals.

Since then, despite scoring goals during qualifying campaigns, Rooney has failed to live up to the expectations put upon him after these early flashes of brilliance, managing just one World Cup goal and five goals at the Euros (four of which came in 2004).

At 30 years of age, are his best days now behind him despite England’s unbeaten world cup qualifying campaign?

The 2016 European Championships come at a great time for England. The doom and gloom, which surrounded the team during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, seems to have lifted, with young English players starring for top teams in the Premier League.

There also seems to be a great amount of depth in every position and, in the qualifying round leading up to the tournament, England finished top of the group winning all of their ten matches, becoming only the fifth side to ever do so.

In this qualifying stage, Rooney scored seven of England’s thirty-one goals. Not bad. But then the quality of the opposition faced during this stage was not at the level we would expect to face during the tournament. The ability to score goals against San Marino and Estonia does not necessarily mean Rooney is capable of scoring against the top teams in the competition.

As proof of this, we can assess Rooney’s scoring record in this season’s Premier League. The centre forward has admittedly suffered from a few injuries this season but has still played twenty-four games and has only managed seven goals in that time. Whilst Manchester United haven’t been at their best, it can still be said that playing as a centre forward for a top four side, that a tally of seven goals is not what you would call satisfactory.

With a poor record at international tournaments, particularly World Cups, is his selection now unjustified ahead of the young guns?

For the nation’s top goal scorer and Captain to have only managed a single World Cup goal in his long career, is certainly worrying. Clearly, the ability he has shown at club level and even in qualifying for tournaments is missing on the big stage. This could be down to his own faults but I think a lot of the blame also lies with the whole team rather than solely resting with Rooney. The entire England team have not performed in the major tournaments and no player has stepped up to score goals whilst Rooney has struggled.

Now however, England has fresh talent coming through and scoring goals. For the first time since the 1999-2000 season, the top two positions in the race for the Golden Boot are occupied by English players in Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy. Granted, Vardy is not exactly young at the age of 29 himself however, the dynamism and energy that he offers could be a breath of fresh air to the England forward line. Kane meanwhile, is clearly the future talismanic striker that England have so desperately needed in recent years. At the age of 21, he scored 21 goals in the Premier League last season and won the PFA young players of the year award. Now at the age of 22, he has 24 league goals and a real chance to prove his ability at the Euros.

On top of that you have further competition for the centre forward roles in the form of Daniel Sturridge, who has shown his ability many times before but has been unfortunately hampered by injury. Then there’s Danny Welbeck, who England fans might also feel hasn’t done enough this season to earn his place.

The increased competition for the role of the number 9 position has led many to suggest that Rooney could potentially play a deeper role as a number 10, using his experience and technique to craft chances for others, which would play to his strengths and avoid his weaknesses such as a lack of fitness. Whilst this could perhaps suit Rooney, and he has been employed in this role to great effect in several games at club level, England also have great options in this playmaker position in the form of Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere and Harry Kane, who is also capable of occupying the number 10 position.

Is Roy Hodgson showing blind loyalty over the future generation of England that has a better chance of success?

Whilst there are many options to get excited about for England’s future, it is always worth noting that a blend of experience and youth is perhaps the best model to build a successful team. Wayne may not have played his best football in major tournaments for England, but he has the experience and leadership that some of the younger or less experienced players could benefit from.

Should Rooney start every game? Possibly not however, it is important to have a Captain in the squad who knows the game and has experience in pressure situations that will arise at big tournaments. Joe Hart and Gary Cahill offer a similar kind of leadership but Rooney is the current Captain and as such, he should be there to lead the squad. It’s not just about loyalty – it’s about guiding the future generation into the fold.

Should Andy Carroll or perhaps Marcus Rashford go instead to give England better options?

Andy Carroll certainly offers a different dimension to a lot of the current England strikers. He is big and not afraid to use his size to his advantage, in order to bully defenders and create goals out of nothing, as he showed in scoring a hat trick in West Ham’s recent 3-3 draw against Arsenal.

This side of his game can also be his weakness however, as he picks up a lot of bookings due to his aggressiveness. As we’ve witnessed before, officials at big tournaments tend to be far less lenient than those in the Premier League, so this and his injury record means he is probably too much of a risk to have in the squad.

Eighteen-year-old Marcus Rashford is an intriguing prospect, having recently burst onto the scene for Manchester United in impressive style. He made his debut in a Europa League tie where he scored two goals against Midtjylland before scoring two more goals in a 3-2 win against Arsenal just three days later. He also scored the winner in the Manchester derby, his team’s first away league win over City since 2013 and has now scored a total of seven goals – the same tally as Rooney, in just 14 appearances.

Despite the young player’s promising start, it would be too soon to send Rashford to a major tournament where the eyes of the nation will watch EURO 2016 on television and across the channel in France. It is best for a player’s progression that they are allowed time to grow and develop and the expectations and media hype around major tournaments can be too much for a young professional to deal with. His ability is never in doubt, but it would be better for him and for England long term, if he is allowed time to develop with the under 21’s before being handed his first senior cap, especially at such a big competition.

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