Should Rooney Board The Plane To Ukraine/Poland

Picture Courtesy-Graeme Bandeira

UEFA’s ruling that Wayne Rooney’s red card against Montenegro is worthy of a three-match ban has been scrutinised and may well be reduced subject to an appeal. Should an appeal prove successful it would be likely that the ban would be reduced to two matches but even then the question will remain as to whether or not Fabio Capello will select Rooney for the squad to compete in Poland and Ukraine next summer.

For the purpose of this exercise, it will be assumed that the three-match ban is upheld. This would rule Rooney out of the group stage. The Euros are a 16-team tournament and therefore should England surprise European observers and reach the final, Rooney would be able to feature in half of the fixtures. He is one of those players who can really turn a game around and when in his finest form, he falls into the “unplayable” category. Rooney could be the man to make a difference in the latter stages where the tournament is at its tightest and where mistakes are kept to a minimum often maximising the desire to exploit any errors possible to achieve the desired results. With Rooney on the pitch, England would surely seem to be a greater threat on an individual basis to a respective opponent. 

There is a counter-argument to this calling for Capello to be bold and leave Rooney out of the final Euro 2012 squad. The reasoning is based more on a desire for a stronger collective. As mentioned earlier, Rooney undoubtedly strengthens England on an individual basis. It remains a point of contention as to his impact on a collective basis. With talents such as Daniel Sturridge emerging and looking to prove themselves on the biggest stages in football, Capello might just be wondering whether to formulate a different plan than the one he’s deployed so far. Rooney’s involvement could often lead to his teammates relying on the Manchester United forward perhaps too much. Without him there, it might encourage more equality of responsibility in the squad and with that a better collective performance. Let’s also not forget why England are in this situation in the first place. Rooney’s petulant kicking-out highlighted what has been on display on occasions before.
While his temperament aids his energetic play, it can also be a hindrance when things aren’t going his way on the pitch. Also Rooney would in effect be taking up a valuable squad place in the group stages that could be used by a player available for deployment adds weight to the argument. 

Players such as Gabriel Agbonlahor, Danny Welbeck and Bobby Zamora are impressing for their clubs this season and it would perhaps to be cruel to deny them an opportunity if they turn out consistently good performances for their respective teams. It would appear that those three aforementioned players would be likely candidates to take Rooney’s place but currently there is a growing movement for Daniel Sturridge’s inclusion in the England team. Friendly matches while ridiculed by many will offer more evidence as to just who is the preferred choice to take the Manchester United forward’s place in the starting eleven. 

It would appear unlikely that Capello would deny Rooney a place in the squad next summer. The Italian’s reign is coming to an end regardless of what England achieves next summer. Of course it does rely on Rooney not suffering either serious injury or a disastrous drop in form as to whether he should be included in the squad but for a player of his natural talent as well as significant press backing, it would increase the likelihood that regardless of the ban he will be selected. The question that that would bring up is whether or not Rooney would come straight back into the fold but this is a question that can only be speculated upon as England might not even progress from the group phase. It would be dependent on a multitude of factors with the key aspects being form and also how the other contenders for a squad place fare in the warm-up games as well.

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Picture Courtesy-David Vandepeer

Rooney is of course one of the best footballers in the modern game and it would be to the tournament’s detriment as a whole if he were not present. However, such an absence could help England’s cause either in the tournament and perhaps in the long-term as England will need to learn how to operate without Rooney if they are to be able to challenge the likes of Spain and Germany. England are clearly not on the same level as the Spanish, the Germans or the Dutch at present but by developing a Plan B, they could surprise. Surprises can often lead to glory. The European Championships of yesteryears provide evidence to show such. Denmark and Greece upset the applecart of the established European order. It’s not to say that Rooney is the issue but tactical versatility would certainly be a useful asset for England in the long-run of nothing else.

Andrew Harding

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