Rooney’s Triple Torment


With the news that Wayne Rooney’s moment of madness has cost him and his country dear in the form of a three-match ban, Fabio Capello is left with a major dilemma. He must now make some huge and brave decisions otherwise England’s progress in next summer’s tournament could already be in serious jeopardy.



Having embarrassingly failed to even make it to 2008’s European Championships, England have this time done enough to be there but have already suffered a huge blow. The absence of the most gifted player of the current generation is terrible news and now it could even be argued that he isn’t worth a place in Capello’s squad.


As far as I am concerned, England must take Rooney even if it means they are left slightly short of options in attack throughout the group stage. At his very best he is the one man in the England squad that could near single-handedly carry our team to success. If we are thinking even vaguely optimistically, as we should be, then we must hope and expect to reach the knock-out stages by which time Rooney would again be available for selection. If we do reach this point then it is crucial that Rooney is a part of our plans no matter how well thinks may have functioned in his absence. He is that good.


Sadly though the personal torment that should be going through Rooney’s mind at present is entirely self-inflicted. No matter what the motivation was for his act of immense stupidity he simply cannot expect to act the idiot and get away lightly. I personally think a three-match ban is harsh when considering Uefa’s guidelines on red card suspensions for Violent Conduct.


In the aftermath of the event England’s playing and coaching staff including Rooney have accepted that his actions were entirely inappropriate and unacceptable, perhaps in the hope that a mature approach would warrant a more lenient punishment. I think that two-matches would be the fair outcome, but Rooney himself can have little complaint and is deserving of very little sympathy. As gifted as he is, he must learn to tame the wild streak that appears all too often in his game.


I am not for a second suggesting that Rooney needs to rid his game of aggression as it is what gives him his ‘X-Factor’ that allows him to be spoken of in the same breath as the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s of this world, but the immaturity needs to stop. Every player loses their cool at times, and though I often think Rooney is subject to a little too much negativity regarding his on-field behaviour, it is hard to defend him when moments like this do occur.


Fabio Capello is now having his hand forced by the fact that he will be without his pried asset for the group stages next year. Though he still has plenty of time before the Championships kick off he must soon decide upon the ideal set-up of his team for the group stages and also he has to decide whether to pick on form if they make it through to the Quarters of whether he is going to bring Rooney back into the fold regardless. Such is the quality of Rooney that it is almost impossible that Rooney won’t make the squad. If he is there and England fail to make it through the group whilst Rooney rots in the stands then so be it. It could be argued that his foolishness warrants such pain.


In Rooney’s absence it is likely that Capello will go with one out and out striker flanked with two attacking wingers playing high up the field in support. This likely decision will spark a real battle for places up-front and should make the rest of the Premier League season a fantastic spectacle of classic front-man performances. There are plenty of youngsters on the periphery of the England squad at present and this should mean that Capello has more than just the Rooney dilemma to deal with between now and the start of the Championships next summer.




My squad and First XI for the Group stages are as follows (injury permitting):


Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Rob Green, David Stockdale


Defenders: Phil Jones, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Leighton, Baines, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill


Midfielders: Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Ashley Young, Frank Lampard, Adam Johnson, Stewart Downing


Strikers: Darren Bent, Wayne Rooney, Andy Carroll, Danny Wellbeck, Daniel Sturridge


– I have sacrificed the likes of Kyle Walker and Glen Johnson as defensive cover in favour of providing greater striking options in Rooney’s absence. The versatility of Manchester United’s young defenders Jones and Smalling means that seven defenders should suffice.




First XI:


Hart, Jones, Ferdinand, Terry, Cole, Parker, Gerrard, Wilshere, Walcott, Young, Wellbeck/Bent


– My gut tells me that Wellbeck has the touch of class that is needed at the peak of International football so I think I would go with him to lead the line in Rooney’s absence but Bent provides the more experienced option and as such I fancy Capello to go with him instead.


Unconvincing England Still Rule The Roost

England’s tepid showing yesterday in a rare home nation’s International was hardly enough to send shivers down the spines of World and European Champions Spain, but it did go to underline their continued domination of British Football. Many will say that last night was demonstrative of England’d eternal footballing plateau and a rise in Wales’ fortunes, but the truth is that England were at their uninspiring worst yet they still beat a Wales side who played at something like their best. Though Wales should have equalised late on when Robert Earnshaw fluffed his lines England were just about the better team over the course of the game and Lampard missed almost as good a chance to put England 2-0 ahead.

Earnshaw miscues his moment of glory

This week has though has seen something of an epiphany in Welsh football and two very creditable performances later they should now be feeling much more positive ahead of next year’s World Cup qualification campaign. They have fought very hard and the win against Montenegro will have hugely boosted their hopes going into their narrow defeat to their neighbours. Though it is a shame they didn’t take home a point from Wembley, things under Gary Speed certainly seem to heading in the right direction.

Though it was a display lacking any real authority or class from England the result gained from it was a crucial one. Coupled with Friday night’s away day glory in Bulgaria this result has near enough ensured England’s place at next summer’s Euro’s and Fabio Capello’s first part of re-building after last Summer’s car crash in South Africa is nearly complete. Remember of course that England qualified strongly under Capello for their ill-fated World Cup campaign before it all went wrong, but taking inspiration from cheesy eighties pop act Yazz “The only way is up!” from that horror show. With a batch of talented youngsters emerging at each of last year’s top six Premier League sides there is reason for belief that England can this time give a better account of themselves off the back of a decent run in qualifying. I am in no way suggesting that England might win next year but a run to the Semi’s isn’t out of the question with the current squad.

Cool finish from Naismith

The early-season International break has also offered hope to Scottish football. Though their failure to win both of their games this week has left them with only a slim chance of qualifying for next summer, they did at least show an enormous amount of character in both of their matches. Their draw with the Czechs provided a real test of character amidst the malaise caused by some outrageously poor refereeing and this was followed up with a tight but utterly essential win over Lithuania with a significantly weakened side. Craig Levein may be left to rue the aforementioned refereeing nightmare but all in all he should be proud of his side’s efforts over the past few days.

Completing the set for British football this week were Northern Ireland, and their week has been horrific. A narrow defeat at home to the dangerous Serbia over the weekend left a bitter taste in the mouth and this was not remedied by yesterday’s humiliating 4-1 defeat away to Estonia. This pair of results should be of huge concern to Nigel Worthington and the country’s football association, there is an awful lot for them to do in preparation for World Cup qualifying next year and this could signal the end Worthington’s tenure.

The displays of the home nations over the International break have shown signs of encouragement with the huge exception of Northern Ireland’s performances, and with the England and Wales going head-to-head thoughts of how a British Olympic football team would look were once again inspired.

The rules of Olympic football state that the squad must be made up of Under 23’s and with no more than three exceptions to this rule. With a long and rigorous domestic season in store and next summer’s Euro’s taking centre stage in the footballing world it must be assumed that at least the majority of England’s squad members for the Euro’s will be spared the extra exertions of playing in the Olympics. Another assumption is that the selectors will opt for an experienced figure-head who can Captain the side and act as an ambassador for British football and the Olympics, many think that this role will be taken by David Beckham and I would be surprised if he wasn’t involved.

Will Beckham return to lead Team GB?

Based upon these assumptions and an effort to include personnel from each of the home nations my proposed starting XI for Team GB would be as follows: (4-2-3-1)

GK: Joe Hart (Manchester City and England)

RB: Chris Smalling (Manchester United and England)

CB: Craig Cathcart (Blackpool and Northern Ireland)

CB: Phil Jones (Manchester United and England)

LB: Gareth Bale (Tottenham and Wales)

DCM: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal and Wales)

DCM: Darren Fletcher (Manchester United and Scotland)

RAM: David Beckham (LA Galaxy and England) (C)

ACM: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal and England)

LAM: Craig Bellamy (Liverpool and Wales)

ST: Danny Wellbeck (Manchester United and England)

Close Calls: Alan McGregor, Wayne Hennessey, Craig Dawson, Johnny Evans, Corry Evans, Jordan Henderson, Chris Brunt, Steven Davis, Jack Rodwell, Barry Bannan, Charlie Adam, Tom Cleverley, Kenny Miller, Jordan Rhodes.

Given the requirements placed upon the modern day footballer, Britain’s lacking recent history of Olympic football, and the disputes going on between each of the home nations’ football associations it is almost impossible to predict the line-up for London 2012. However, it would be a surprise if not even a few of the above names got the call-up.

Fabio Capello: ‘Iron Sergeant’ or ‘Corporal Calamity’

The past couple of weeks have yet again done nothing to advertise the poisoned chalice that is the England managers job. However, I can’t help but feel that poor old Fabio the ‘Iron Sergeant’ Capello has brought this one upon himself.

Lost the plot?

It has been another tumultuous little period for the England boss, accused of going behind captain Rio Ferdinand’s back in handing the captaincy back to the much maligned John Terry. Capello of course is the manager and is entitled to make such decisions but his judgement is rightfully coming under question yet again.

Think back to pretty much all major moments in his tenure and there is one beacon of hope there for all to see. Ex and now reinstated skipper John Terry was caught out for his immensely disruptive off-field antics and was relieved of his duties. This decision to highlight and make an example of poor behaviour was met with a very positive media and public backing. Well done Fabio, brave decisions require brave men to implement them.

How ironic it is that the famed ‘Iron Sergeant’ has now reversed this decision then. Football management tends to be a pretty fickle business, but this is an incident which again has been met pretty unanimously by the media and the public. Moral panic is rife regarding the manor in which Rio Ferdinand has had the Captaincy stripped from him.

Will this decision see the end of a world-class defensive partnership?

Sure Ferdinand has injured pretty much ever since taking on the role, but if he is no longer your chosen leader then at least have the respect to let him know in adult fashion. Ferdinand himself has sailed too close to the wind on occasions in his career but has come out the other side a greater player and a better role model, a captain’s captain, a player who demands respect. It must then have come as a major disappointment to realise he was no longer his nation’s leader via the press. The ultimate embarrassment for a skipper who has not put a foot wrong in his brief time in charge.

Popular opinion seems to be that Capello’s latest decision reeks of regret and that it demonstrates a weakening mind-state of an under-pressure manager. But it is undoubtedly the manner of it that has caused greatest concern. Affairs like this, even in such a media-heavy country, should be carried out behind closed doors and only publicised when every one involved knows where they stand.

Capello has yet again been provided a chance to demonstrate authority and innovation. It is OK to have concerns over the welfare of the team when captain Ferdinand was such an liability in terms of fitness. But to hand the captaincy back to Terry after just “a year of punishment” when initially it was described as an “irreversible” decision appears an example of great frailty. Capello like so many England managers before him has not showered himself in glory thus far in his stint and to make such a misguided decision in such a misguided fashion will certainly not have aided public perception of his capabilities. When there are options such as Steven Gerrard available why would you turn to a controversial figure who is bound to divide opinion?

Why has Gerrard been overlooked?

My personal choice would be Scott Parker every time, but I am fully accepting that you can’t name a player captain if they aren’t an established member of the side. Personal agendas aside though Gerrard would appear by far the most popular and sensible decision. He has a proven record as captain of his club, he is passionate and he has captained England.

Terry may possess many skills that make him a very good on-field captain. But how Capello justifies this decision to the fans and players having gone back on his word is hard to fathom. I fear the damage is done already, and the England squad have been placed under unnecessary pressure to demonstrate what could be perceived as an artificial united front. England should and probably will beat Wales this weekend, but even if they do this has certainly been a case of great distraction at an important juncture in England’s qualification campaign.