When Leicester’s Jamie Vardy pulled off an audacious flick past Manuel Neuer to restore parity against World Cup-winning Germany in Berlin at the weekend the travelling fans erupted into rapturous applause.
Beyond the sound of those cheers, however, was another noise, a familiar sound, that of a bandwagon being cranked back up to full pace.
Despite breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s international record of 49 goals Wayne Rooney has faced a barrage of criticism about his England career in recent years and many are now calling for the talismanic captain to not only make way for Vardy in the starting line-up, but to be pushed out of the squad all together.
Even some of the more sympathetic pundits say Rooney should only make the squad if he can “find some form” before the Euros.
Granted, the 30-year-old’s injury problems have ruled him out of any action since February 3 but to suggest the Manchester United man was short of form before his lay-off is ludicrous.
Rooney bashing has become a popular pastime for armchair and professional pundits alike of late, with the line that the striker has somehow failed to live up to his potential often trotted out. How that accusation can be levelled at a man who has already broken his country’s long-standing goal record and is bearing down on his club record with gusto is frankly unfathomable.
But Rooney should not be in the squad on reputation alone, even if he holds the armband and can, as Ross Barkley recently pointed out, be a calming influence among a group of young, energetic and talented but largely inexperienced individuals.
Fortunately, he doesn’t have to. Anyone questioning Rooney’s form for club or country must live in one of the UK’s Wi-Fi black spots as even a quick glance shows Wazza is in rude health in front of goal.
The United man netted seven goals in the last nine games in which he featured for the Red Devils before his injury lay-off and with 11 strikes in his last 14 international outings, to suggest he is a spent force for the Three Lions is lunacy.
If Rooney were born in any other country in Europe he would be revered as an ageing master who still has much to offer a la Andrea Pirlo and the likes of Andriy Shevchenko and Hristo Stoichkov before him.
Vardy has been a breath a fresh air in the Premier League this season and fully deserves to have his form recognised with international honours but to leave Rooney at home in place of the Leicester man this summer would be ridiculous.
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