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Hoddle Was Right

Steady as she goes

I’m the first to admit that much of what spouts from Glenn Hoddle’s mouth is absolute rubbish.

The World wisely stopped taking notice of the former England boss when he talked his way out of a job by bizarrely suggesting that disabled people were somehow afflicted due to misdemeanours committed in a past life.

Anyway, that’s bye the bye, but I did find myself uncharacteristically agreeing with some of his musings in that much-respected oracle of sporting knowledge The Daily Mail.

“I’d have substituted Wayne Rooney against Algeria,” he said.

“Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind as a coach. Even to your best players. Let him watch from the bench.

“We need to get into Rooney’s head and help him. He is such a special player and we need him firing.”

Master psychologist he is not, but, I think Hoddle has a valid point in this instance. Let’s face it – Rooney has been poor. He has not scored since March and is clearly not fit – not that he’d admit it though. Most of us noticed that as he realised he was being replaced by Joe Cole against Slovenia, he miraculously stopped limping.

All the indications are that he will be fit for Sunday’s clash with Germany but he is likely to sit out of training – as he has done after all our group games due to the soreness in his ankle. Given the type of player he is, relying on power, speed and aggression, he needs to be fully fit to operate.

Although ordinarily indispensible, as both Ledley King and James Milner so ably demonstrated against the USA, players who are not fully fit should not start as they inevitably incur wasteful substitutions. To harness Rooney’s unquestionable ability to intimidate opponents and create a physical presence, a burst from the subs’ bench might suit him better.

If his ankle is fine, then it’s a psychological problem. He will continue to play with anxiety until he breaks his duck and anxiety invariably leads to failure. Rooney has spent much of England’s World Cup campaign either playing far too deep, in his efforts to regain possession, or attempting snapshots from 30 yards to try and create an opening which does not serve him or the team particularly well.

His frustration at England’s (and his own) inadequacies has so far manifested itself in his somewhat petulant response to fans booing at the end of the Algeria game. I needn’t remind you that the striker’s history of practicing restraint on the pitch in times of frustration is questionable to say the least and any recurrence could lead to tragedy for the nation in the South Africa.

Would I drop him for the latest chapter in our epic battle for supremacy over the Germans? – Probably not. His reputation as an unmovable object in the face of adversity has earned him the moniker ‘Sturmtank’ in the German press and they fear him above all else.

Likewise, he should not be viewed as untouchable and with Joe Cole and Jermaine Defoe both due substantially more time on the pitch, now might be just the time for Rooney to sit out.

Understandably vexed at being dropped, a pumped up (but disciplined) Rooney could be just the man we need to fire us past the Argentines in the Quarter Finals. Alternatively, with the tie all square and penalties looming, it would seem like natural justice for him to appear from the bench and smash in the winner.

It may seem like Roy of the Rovers stuff but I for one do not think that any man should have an automatic place in the side – not least Wayne Rooney.

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