As has been well documented, Wayne Rooney will be unavailable for the first three games of Euro 2012 due to a suspension resulting from his red card in the final qualifying match against Montenegro. This leaves the England management with a problem, some would say a crisis. Who has the ability to step up and fill Wayne’s boots? Should Rooney be taken at all? This is my overview of the most likely candidates to replace the troubled striker, concluding with my opinion on whether he should be taken at all.
1. Darren Bent
Seemingly Capello’s preferred accompaniment to Rooney (If he ditches the lone striker formation he has been favouring recently), it appears that Bent will be one of the first names on the plane to Poland/Ukraine. The Aston Villa striker has 4 goals in 11 games since making his England debut in 2006, as well as 166 career goals. Unless serious injury or a horrendous dip in form takes hold, it is difficult to see Bent not lining up for the first Euro group game.
2. Danny Wellbeck
Welbeck has made a late push to be included in Capello’s plans, having only 2 caps to his name. He is also relatively inexperienced at club level, having made only 69 appearances in his career. He is, however, having a decent season with Manchester United, impressing both in the Premiership and on the European Stage. If his form continues into the New Year, it is likely that he will be in the squad, but early bright sparks often fade as the season wears on.
3. Jermaine Defoe
An England substitutes bench stalwart since making his debut in 2004, Defoe has scored 15 England goals in 46 appearances. He also has 182 career goals, making him the most prolific striker on this list. After a difficult 2010/11 season where his form dipped dramatically, Defoe has re-established himself in the Tottenham first team as they push for a Champions League place. Due to his vast experience, there is a strong chance that he will be named in the squad. He is, however, a very similar striker to Darren Bent, making it unlikely the two will line up together in attack.
4. Daniel Sturridge
The fact he is uncapped makes Sturridge an outside bet, but he has recently broken into the Chelsea first team after an incredibly successful loan spell at Bolton. Sturridge has 15 caps for the England U21’s, indicating that he is not entirely unfamiliar with the international stage, but his lack of experience will count heavily against him unless he can impress in the preparatory games before the tournament. Perhaps the lack of involvement from Rooney will persuade Capello to give him a chance?
5. Andy Carroll
Liverpool’s record signing (and the most expensive British footballer in history) has made a slow start to the season, his solitary Premier League goal coming in the Merseyside Derby. He does, however, have plenty of time to improve. He has an advantage over Welbeck and Sturridge in that he has already scored his first full international goal, and his aerial ability and strength offers something very different from the other 4 strikers on the list (and, indeed, Rooney). For this reason alone, it seems quite likely that he will be partnered with Bent or Defoe for the group stages of Euro 2012.
1. Peter Crouch – Capello seems to have given up on the gangly marksman, despite his impressive 22 goals in 42 games for England. This makes him more prolific than the five attackers listed, but a move to Stoke is unlikely to reignite his chances of making the squad.
2. Bobby Zamora – Named in the squad to face Montenegro, Zamora has had a decent start to the season. It would, however, take a huge dip in form for two or more players for him to be on the plane to the Euros. It remains to be seen whether he is international quality.
3. Jay Bothroyd – Since a severe injury crisis propelled Bothroyd into the England set up for his solitary cap against France, the journeyman striker has stepped up a division. Unfortunately, this has exposed his shortcomings as a top quality striker. He is yet to find the net for Q.P.R, and it would take a miracle for him to add to his international tally.
4. Connor Wickham – As an Ipswich fan, Wickham would be in my squad every time. This view, however, is unlikely to be echoed by Capello, the inexperienced Sunderland striker struggling to make an impact at his new club.
5. Michael Owen – Looks sharp every time he plays for Manchester United. Unfortunately, he only plays for his club against inferior opposition in the Carling Cup. He is the only person who thinks he is good enough for the England squad.
Should Rooney be in the squad?
Though he is undoubtedly world class, Rooney has a poor record at major championships for England. In his last 8 games at World Cup Finals he has failed to find the net, and was arguably responsible for England being dumped out of the 2006 competition after his red card against Portugal. Questions remain, then, about his temperament, but his overall record speaks for itself. Rooney has scored 28 goals in 73 games for England, and has notched 111 goals in 224 games for Manchester United. Supporters may also point to the fact that he was suffering familial problems in the build up to the game, and criticise Capello for selecting him in the first place.
It is hard to imagine a situation in which he would be left at home for the tournament, even though he will miss the first three games. These games, however, are likely to be against poor quality opposition, with Rooney being brought in to compete against the big guns of the tournament. Whether he will be in the right condition to play remains to be seen. In addition, squad harmony may be damaged if Rooney is given an automatic starting place over players who have helped the team progress through the group stage.
Even with these factors taken into account, Wayne Rooney is simply too good to be left at home for Euro 2012. He is currently England’s only world class striker. Unless England win the tournament, he is inevitably going to be blamed in some way for their failure. If the team fails to make it through the group stages, his folly over his suspension will come under scrutiny, whereas if England crash out at a later stage, his conditioning will come into questioning. This is his burden to bear, and it is all because he could not hold his temper for an extra 20 minutes. An unbelievable talent is in danger of tainting his own legacy.