You may remember that I wrote about Wayne Rooney last week.
England had just played Germany, and beaten Germany. Both Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy had scored top-quality goals, and Dele Alli had put in a man-of-the-match performance.
In that article, I made the case that there really isn’t any room for Wayne Rooney in the England starting line-up anymore. Kane’s a better striker, Vardy’s better out wide and Alli’s better at number ten.
Most of the footballing world agrees with me.
But it very much seems like Roy Hodgson doesn’t. This week, the England boss hit out at critics of Rooney, and strongly suggested that the England captain would start in Euro 2016, saying that ‘it would take an awful lot’ to leave him on the substitutes bench this summer.
“It would take a lot before I say to Wayne Rooney, after his captaincy over two years, after 19 games and two defeats, that because I am being pushed to make a brave, bold decision and show what a fantastic, forward-thinking and adventurous coach I am, ‘I am leaving you out the team’,” the manager said.
In case you missed it, Hodgson has made it all about himself. He’s talked about HIM having to make a bold decision, about HIM showing what a great coach HE is.
And HE has missed the point.
Because it’s nothing to do with Hodgson.
It’s everything to do with the respective abilities of Rooney, Kane, Vardy and Alli and England’s chances of doing well in the tournament.
Hodgson has got to be mad if he genuinely believes that England have more chance of success with Rooney up front, rather than Kane, or Vardy, or Sturridge.
In essence, the England boss has admitted that he won’t be picking on form. He’ll be picking on past reputation. Which doesn’t bode well for our chances.
Even worse than this tacit admission was his almost disparaging remarks about the young players challenging Rooney for his place.
“Most teams, if they are any good as teams, they don’t throw their captain out the first time a young player comes on the team and scores a goal, unless the captain for some reason is playing so badly or doing so badly there is a clear reason for doing so,” Hodgson remarked.
Whether he’s talking about Jamie Vardy or Harry Kane, my view is that these are disrespectful comments from Roy Hodgson. It’s not as if either of those players are ‘flashes in the pan’; players who’ve had a good couple of games but haven’t proved themselves over any sustained period.
Kane was immense last season, and he’s followed that form on with another 20-goal season this year. Vardy is second behind Kane in the goal-scoring charts, and is almost certain to win the title.
These are not young whippersnappers who aren’t ready. They’re not the ‘future’ of the England team – they’re the present. And if Hodgson doesn’t realise that then he’s giving himself a mountain to climb in France this summer.