Forgive me if I don’t join in the ecstatic chorus which greeted Wayne Rooney’s record 50th goal for England.
Indeed it seemed somewhat appropriate that the air of anti-climax could be engendered by the fact that both his 49th and 50th clinching goals should have come not from open play, but merely from the penalty spot.
The blunt truth is that Rooney, far from it, has never excelled in World Cup finals, and that his one outstanding tournament came in Portugal in the 2004 European Championships when, after dazzling performances, he was kicked out of the game by the Portuguese in Lisbon.
In Germany, again against Portugal, Rooney got himself sent off. In South Africa he was a petulant figure. His scoring feats cannot be compared with those of the player he has just overhauled, Bobby Charlton, whose goals did so much to help England win the 1966 World Cup. Nor surely with the achievements of Gary Lineker, top scorer of the Mexico 1986 World Cup with half a dozen goals (plus four more in Italy four years later).
As for the match against Switzerland, Roy Hodgson was typically honest and objective when he deplored England’s display against a resilient Swiss team in the first half and hardly emphatic about their performance, though he felt it much improved, in the second.
This is an England team which badly needs the return of Jack Wilshere to give it invention in midfield. While Swansea’s Jonjo Shelvey hardly looked the answer and the alternative, Milner, is essentially a competent hard working winger rather than any kind of central midfielder. Barkley has undoubted talent but is hardly a creator.
But a formation which has Rooney operating in the hole behind a Harry Kane who took his goal so crisply after a rather disappointing domestic start with Spurs, the attack looked much sharper. And Joe Hart is a brave and resilient goalkeeper, once dashing splendidly from his goal to plunge at the feet of an attacker the England defence had culpably lost.
But you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and as things stand it’s hard to see England as real contenders when the Euros take place in France next year.