Same Old Same Old For Sam’s England. Unless…
Same old same old? Groundhog day? Or a clean sheet and an unlikely goalscorer meaning a mostly positive start under a new manager?
For me, having watched and commentated on England for a long time and being a fan, I can’t help but feel in the short term we need to grin and bear it a little and see what the World Cup throws up in 2 years time when bright prospects like Alli, Stones, Sterling and Kane can guarantee high level, high quality football in a tournament environment.
On the evidence of the Slovakia game though, the short term looks as frustrating as the last couple of tournaments.
Let’s start with one of the most divisive figures in English football, Wayne Rooney.
On The Wayne
Mourinho said he will play in an advanced position. Big Sam alluded to the same, but again our record goalscorer plays much of the game off the back 4, picking up balls and flattering to deceive with those long, raking pinged passes that have become his trademark.
He’s just not cutting it at this level and God knows where we will be with his one-paced play in two year’s time.
Players will be intimidated by him, especially the younger ones because for too many of them he’s been a part of their upbringing, watching his magic on TV. And believe me, when you have such a large figure in a dressing room, then the younger players are less likely to express themselves and stamp their authority on that room and indeed the game.
So if Sam is clever, he’ll still have Rooney in the squad because of his experience but he shouldn’t be starting games and I’m afraid that time comes to us all when we can no longer deliver in the position we want to.
So Wayne, instead of saying he’ll be around for another 2 years, may have to have that choice taken from him and be looked at as a mere mortal once again rather than the saviour of the nation. It’s painfully obvious that as the legs grow older, players take steps back on the pitch rather than forward and that’s what the lad is doing, taking steps back.
“But he’s started the season with assists and you acknowledge the impact his experience has Stan, is that not a good thing?” To a degree yes, but many of these young players now need to live under the pressure Rooney has always been under and I genuinely don’t think they will when he’s the one we all talk about.
Dele Alli for example. In real terms he should be starting in the position that Rooney wants to play in, around or alongside his team mate for 50 odd games already, Eric Dier.
Why don’t we give the two of them, good friends, a chance to shine and improve?
We need Sam to tell them: “I’ve dropped the record scorer for you guys, that’s how much I believe in you!”
At the moment it’s putting Rooney ahead of the country and indeed many United fans feel the same about their club. It’s not anti-Rooney or disliking him, his career has been wonderful. But it’s time to move on, not guarantee him anything other than if he’s hot, he played, if he’s not, he doesn’t.
Heart of Stones
On the positive side, another player who’s come under criticism has been John Stones, with me at the front of the queue. But I thought he recognised when we needed impetus, leadership and responsibility in the second half and so I’m more than happy to praise the kid who couldn’t defend for toffee last season.
He decided to do something, change the pace and get involved in a position where he could be a nuisance. Rooney, when the goal went in, was one of 5 players including Joe Hart not to be in the opponents’ box. See what I mean?
The jury is still out on Henderson, honest that he is. From midfield we need cockiness, confidence and a hybrid of a ball player, a rabble rouser, an inspiration and a motivator. He gives none.
Which is why embracing Alli is so important even after a tricky start to the season. He just ‘has it’, proven with a cameo appearance which asked lots of questions going forward late on.
Kane Is Able
I’ve already said in these columns that Sturridge and Kane need to forge a partnership. They get on well off the pitch and in a day and age when many nations play only one up top, it may give us an advantage in an area we have been woefully short in for years at tournaments. Namely of course, it’s scoring and putting clear air between us and other teams.
We play two games against the Scots. Two derbies. Try them then! And against Malta. Four games in total where a pairing and understanding may happen. And I tell you what (in Keegan-esque voice)…
…if we get the two of them working off and around each other we may well hit the jackpot.
Another reason Rooney should no longer be considered up top.
I’ll give 7 out of 10 as we won and for players at least taking responsibility late on when a bore draw looked more likely.
But if you’re an England fan, then things may get a little more painful to watch for a while longer yet, unless the golden child of English football is treated the same as everyone else and is no longer indulged for past glories in the red of United.