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.
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.