Ashley Young must replace idiotic Rooney as England’s number ten

by Charlie Coffey

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

England fans are used to their star players letting them down at major tournaments, but this time it has happened seven months before a ball has even been kicked in Poland or Ukraine.

Wayne Rooney’s sending off against Montenegro on Friday proves he still has the fiery temper that could be fatal to England’s already slim chances of winning the 2012 European Championships, and means he will be banned for up to three games of that tournament. Whether it’s standing on a splayed Portuguese scrotum or kicking the back of a Montenegro defender’s legs, Friday’s game proved there has been little change in his temperament since the last Euros. In short: he’ll never learn.

England must play Ashley Young behind the striker as much as possible before the tournament begins. Fabio Capello will learn on Thursday whether his side will be without Rooney for one, two, or all three of the group games, but if Young performs well in that position as everybody knows he can, he should start big knockout games there instead of Rooney, because of his superior temperament.

Instead, the fiery Scouser’s appearances should be limited to that of an impact sub for the good of the team, and the need to keep 11 players on the pitch. The worldwide knowledge that Rooney can easily be wound up is England’s Achilles heel as much as his ability is their most deadly weapon.

England have relied on their big players for too long. This approach can only either stifle players by putting too much pressure on them, as we saw with Rooney’s abject performances in South Africa, or lead to a feeling of despair throughout the team and the fans if a key player is injured or sent off.

The best sides have ample replacements in every position. Zinedine Zidane was the heartbeat of the France team that won the World Cup and the European Championships at the turn of the century, but when he was unavailable they had creativity in abundance from the likes of Youri Djorkaeff and Robert Pires.

Perhaps this is the reason why Fabio Capello has left Rooney out of the squad to face Spain – he needs to give others the opportunity to fulfil the pivotal role of the withdrawn striker against the best sides in the world. Young has been superb for club and country so far this season. While his physical attributes are pathetic compared to Rooney’s, Spain have shown that the focus of international football at the highest level has veered away from physicality and towards technique.

Young’s technique is as good, if not better than Rooney’s and, crucially, his ability to stay calm under pressure is far superior. His contribution to the Montenegro game was a goal and an assist; Rooney’s a red card. By the time the Euros start, Young will have had the experience of a full season of Champions League football. He has the best eye for a killer ball in the final third of any of England’s current squad, and his relationship with Darren Bent was again apparent for England’s second goal on Friday.

Perhaps Rooney may finally learn from his mistakes if he is not automatically reinstated into the starting 11 every time he makes another ridiculous error of judgement; every time he lets the occasion and the opposition get to him. Spain and Germany, the two strongest teams in Europe at present, play clinical, passing football. England need a calm head from each and every player that represents them in the European Championships next summer, and they also need eleven of them on the pitch at all times.

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