This summer, Roy Hodgson will take his 23-man England squad to France for the European Championship. And, with less than two months until the tournament gets under way, the former Liverpool boss has plenty to think about with regards to his squad selection.
If Hodgson gets it right, England stand a great chance of winning their first major tournament since 1966. In fact, many believe that the Three Lions can emulate that fantastic achievement this summer and Hodgson’s men are at the time of writing priced at 9/1 to win the competition with 32Red UK.
However, they could just as easily crash out at the group stages once again if he gets it wrong. On paper, England’s group looks fairly straightforward but there are two tricky fixtures. Wales, playing in their first major competition since the 1958 World Cup, are on the rise and shouldn’t be dismissed. Meanwhile, Russia will also be very difficult opponents. Slovakia, on the other hand, should not pose too much of a threat to Hodgson’s men in what could be a decisive contest.
Of course, there are no right or wrong answers but here is the ultimatum. Wayne Rooney has been disappointing for the last 12 months. Other than breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record, Rooney has done very little to suggest that he deserves a place in Hodgson’s starting line-up.
Having said that, it is no secret that Hodgson is extremely fond of his captain and it really wouldn’t be a major surprise to see the forward slot into the starting XI. And while it would be harsh to suggest that Rooney’s presence alone means England won’t advance past the group stages, his inclusion would likely come at the expense of either Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy or Dele Alli.
These three players have arguably been England’s best performers in the Premier League this season and it would be hard to support Hodgson if he decided to bench one of the ase bright young talents to accommodate Rooney. Yes, the 30-year-old is the national team captain but that shouldn’t mean he is handed a free pass into the side.
If nothing else, Hodgson has to be brave. England’s starlets have plenty of potential and the only way we will find out what they can achieve is by letting them start this summer. At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, England suffered an embarrassing group stage exit. That simply cannot happen again. This England side has too much class to fail and the manager needs to realise that the Three Lions are a much better side without Rooney.
Rooney returned to the Manchester United side for their 1-0 victory over Aston Villa and he was very effective in the ‘number 10’ role. That would potentially be Ross Barkley or Dele Alli’s position, although the latter is just as effective playing as a more natural central midfielder. In a way, Rooney playing just off either Kane or Vardy would work and England would reap rewards from Rooney’s experience but with an in-form striker leading the line.
Kane is in tremendous form and he has to be England’s main striker this summer. The Tottenham man has netted over 20 goals for the second season in a row and will now try to lead his nation to the European glory. As of April 20th, Kane is 18/1 with 32Red and Netbet to finish as the Euro 2016 tournament’s top scorer and he stands a great chance of netting plenty of goals – especially with club team-mates Alli, Eric Dier and Danny Rose in the England set-up.
Although Alli is more than capable of dropping deeper and playing in midfield, his best position is the ‘number 10’. Yes, Rooney could pip Alli to that particular spot but Hodgson risks the wrath of England supporters all over the country if he allows his allegiances and familiarity with the England captain to sway his decision-making. After all, Alli has been phenomenal all season. Rooney on the other hand, has not.