A new era we were promised and a fresh wave of optimism came with the appointment of Sam Allardyce as England manager. Finally a man at the helm who had an identity, OK it may not have been the identity that we were craving but after Roy Hodgson’s clueless performance at Euro 2016 at least it seemed we had someone in charge who had some ideas to implement.
But then England played Slovakia last Sunday and it was a case of the more things change then the more the stay the same. Although you could argue how much did Allardyce really change for his first game in charge as England boss. The result against Slovakia was at least a positive one but we still had the same major problem and that problem is none other than Wayne Rooney.
After England’s somewhat fortuitous win in Slovakia, Allardyce went on record to say that ‘he can’t tell Wayne where to play’ which isn’t the most inspiring of comments and had Rooney been man of the match and covered just about every blade of grass then you could say fair enough but with the Manchester United man turning in another performance short of what a captain should be delivering you have to argue whether or not Rooney is hampering the England side.
With Rooney deployed in midfield again, England were reduced to a pedestrian pace as Rooney failed to make any real impact in the game. Slovakia may have been reduced to 10 men thanks to Martin Skrtel’s moment of madness in the second half but at times it felt as England were also playing with a man short.
Conspiracy theorists will ask themselves who is picking the England side, or maybe the question should be how much influence do Nike have on team selection. With Wayne Rooney being the poster boy for Nike in this country and the American sportswear giants making the latest Three Lions shirt then you can see there being grounds for some sort of pressure from Nike for Rooney to play.
If that is to be the case then The F.A. have appointed another yes man in Allardyce, which would have disappointed a lot of people as many felt that the former Sunderland manager would be the one to break the mould and not be afraid to make controversial decisions should they be required.
The Rooney – Nike – F.A. axis of doom is obviously conjecture but it does carry some weight but you would like to think that an England side is being picked by the managers own volition and not because of orders from the powers that be.
Also the fact that Rooney has put a date on his retirement so early doesn’t really do England any favours as now we are almost in the midst of a two year ‘Wayne Rooney Retirement Tour’. In essence it’s quite a clever move by Rooney because it asks the question of whether or not Allardyce would consider dropping someone who is playing their last run of games for the national side.
When you add the fact that Rooney could very well become England’s most capped player should he feature in all qualifiers and the World Cup should England make it then it becomes even more a sensitive subject as to whether or not the former Everton forward should feature.
When Rooney retires you get the feeling that history will be kind to him, he has won every major honour with Manchester United and is England’s record goalscorer with the high possibility of beating Peter Shilton’s 125 England Caps as well. But the fact he has never delivered in a major tournament for England will definitely be a tick in the negative column.
He is almost in danger of tarnishing his own legacy after the level of displays that he has been turning out as of late when wearing an England shirt. But on the other hand he is almost playing safe in the knowledge that he will not be dropped.
The fact that he is had to be dropped down to midfield is already proof that Rooney is having to be accomodated into the side. Admittedly Harry Kane hasn’t pulled up many trees as of late but it again shows that we are having to use a round peg in a square hole.
There is no doubting that Rooney has been a great servant for England and it’s admirable that he still wants to play but it would be more admirable if he stepped aside from frontline duty. The thing is though with his retirement date set in stone it looks like his England career is going to end with a whimper rather than a bang.
If you haven’t quite given up on watching England just yet then you best get ready for another two years of Rooney holding the side hostage. If the performance against Slovakia was anything to go by we could be in for a very long and tortuous period. Roll on getting knocked out of World Cup 2018 when a new era can really begin.