Big Sam must show Rooney who's boss
England manager needs to win power battle or lose respect
(Adam Lallana 90+5)
Sam Allardyce appears to be handicapped with an inferiority complex.
Big, brash and usually outspoken, the England manager betrayed an unexpected deference to one player yesterday morning (Singapore time).
He essentially admitted that Wayne Rooney gets a free pass. The skipper plays when he wants and wanders wherever the mood takes him.
Allardyce bows at the altar of England's most-capped player. Unless that lopsided relationship is altered soon, the new manager risks damaging his fledgling reputation at international level.
Rooney must be dropped to elevate Allardyce's standing.
After the fortuitous 1-0 victory over Slovakia yesterday morning, Big Sam dropped the ball in revealing an unhealthy balance of power.
"Wayne played wherever he wanted," Allardyce admitted. "I think he holds a lot more experience at international football than I do as an international manager.
"So… it's not for me to say where he's going to play."
Actually, it is.
But Allardyce's startling admission hints at an insecure, trophy-less club manager struggling to settle in his rarefied surroundings.
Like Roy Hodgson and Sven-Goran Eriksson before him, Allardyce cannot remove the superstar blinkers and distinguish between the colossal superstar that graces global billboards and the meandering midfielder against Slovakia.
For a man celebrated for his no-nonsense approach to man-management, Allardyce came across as a selfie-seeking groupie hanging around the team bus.
His comments evoked personal memories of sitting beside David Beckham and Eriksson at a Singapore country club event to promote London's bid to host the 2012 Olympics.
This was in 2005, a year before the Golden Generation's anti-climatic World Cup campaign, and yet Eriksson's fawning of his fabled winger was as obvious as it was uncomfortable.
Beckham was in control of the conversation. Eriksson was in awe of his skipper. Personally, their relationship was very close. Professionally, it was always going to end in tears.
Beckham had too much influence in England's camp and Rooney seems to have a similarly hypnotic effect on the Three Lions' new coaching staff.
Rooney drifted across the Slovak pitch in search of a position that suited his laboured game.
The skipper started alongside Jordan Henderson in a 4-1-4-1, a cautious formation that made England's play desperately pedestrian in the first half and much of the second, until Martin Skrtel's red card.
Allardyce capitalised on England's one-man advantage by introducing pace through Dele Alli, Theo Walcott and then Daniel Sturridge.
But Rooney dropped deeper with each substitution, even demanding the ball in front of his back four.
The 30-year-old's passing range makes him suitably equipped to take on the quarterback's role, but he slowed England down whenever he was in possession.
With fleeting cameos as a No. 10, Rooney's drift from holding midfielder to back-four babysitter made him a jack of three different positions and master of none.
For that, he earned confusing praise from a manager forced to admit that his skipper hadn't really followed instructions.
Echoes of Beckham listening to his ego rather than a Swede in the dugout drifted across the stadium.
Rooney's record 116th cap demands respect, but not immunity.
Allardyce was presumably hired precisely because he didn't pander to the cult of celebrity.
He was a gruff, old school disciplinarian who dismissed resumes and reputations in favour of the here and now.
And yet, Rooney's erratic displays at Euro 2016 suggested the end was nigh. Adam Lallana's enterprising efforts in France, a lone beacon of hope in a sea of drudgery, hinted that his future looked bright.
Against Slovakia, nothing had changed.
Once again, Rooney's freedom mystified as he laboured in vain. Once again, Lallana's invention was the one plus point on an otherwise forgettable night.
Despite the Liverpool midfielder's first goal for his country, he was largely manacled to the white line, his improvisational tricks often wasted out wide. When Lallana cut inside, England found a pulse.
He deserves the keys to Allardyce's kingdom, but the manager won't wrench them away from his captain.
He still sees an intimidating English icon, which is unfortunate. Allardyce really needs to see a fading footballer.
BY THE NUMBERS
England took 49 shots in the last two matches against Slovakia but managed to score only once. In contrast, the Slovaks had only one shot, which was off target, in the match yesterday morning.
Cascarino: Wayne is no Pirlo
Wayne Rooney can play where he wants to.
Sam Allardyce defended his captain over his positioning after starting life as England manager with a last-gasp 1-0 win over Slovakia in a World Cup qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Rooney, making a record 116th appearance for an England outfield player, adopted a deep-lying midfield role for much of the game despite Allardyce having said he would play in a No. 10 position.
Allardyce said: "Using his experience with a team, and playing as a team member, it's not for me to say where he's going to play.
"It's up to me to (ask), 'Are you playing well in that position? And if you are playing well and contributing, that's great'.
"Yes, I'd like him to get forward a bit more. He's been a goalscorer all his life and I want him still to score goals, but he reads a game as he reads it.
"I must admit, he did play a little deeper than I thought he'd play. But I was pleased with his performance."
But former Republic of Ireland star Tony Cascarino has accused Rooney of overestimating his own ability to dictate games from midfield.
Cascarino, who spent time at Millwall, Chelsea and Aston Villa during a 20-year playing carer as a striker, feels that the Man United man was trying to mimic Italian icon Andrea Pirlo, who is renowned globally for his technique as a deep-lying playmaker.
"I was lucky enough to play with Glenn (Hoddle) and he could play a pass blind," Cascarino told The Times.
"He didn't have to lift his head up to know where the strikers or wingers wanted the ball, he was always one step ahead and able to play that killer round-the-corner ball.
"It's the same with Andrea Pirlo. Ridiculously, England's midfield has three of the same in Wayne Rooney, Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson - constantly needing to lift their heads, making it much easier for the opposition to read what will happen next and pick off the pass.
"It's a split-second thing, but a vital one at the highest level.
"Rooney thinks he is Pirlo, dropping deep and wanting to dictate play, but he's not a midfielder and not the great Italian.
"They just don't look like a proper midfield unit who know how to take a back four apart.
Rooney defended his new role and insisted that there are too many headlines about where he should play.
"Too much is getting made about it," he told Sky Sports.
"Listen, I'm playing on the pitch for England. I'm captain of the team and I feel I can do a very good job in the role I played tonight.
"I feel too much is getting made. It's headlines for a lot of people but, of course, it's about the team and about us winning. I played in that role and helped us win the game.
"I've done it my whole career and suddenly it's big news. It's not a big thing and I think there's a big over-reaction to it.
"I am happy where I'm playing and I think I'm doing a good job."
- Wire Services.
Rooney thinks he is Pirlo (above), dropping deep and wanting to dictate play, but he’s not a midfielder and not the great Italian.
— Former Republic of Ireland star Tony Cascarino
Allardyce's lucky charm
Sam Allardyce needed a moment of luck to snatch victory over Slovakia on his bow as England manager yesterday morning (Singapore time), but goalscorer Adam Lallana had to share the credit with a shiny gold coin.
The Liverpool midfielder's left-footed strike squirmed over the line to seal a 1-0 win in the closing moments of injury-time.
And while he has his new manager's hearty thanks, Allardyce believes the good fortune might have had a different source.
"I got this lucky penny off a lad today in the hotel," he said, rolling the coin between his fingers. "A father and his son in a wheelchair came to the hotel this morning and asked if it was okay to have a picture.
"When we finished he said, 'Let me give you a lucky coin'. Here it is. I had it with me in my pocket, we won, so it'll stay with me.
"I'm not really superstitious but I'm going to keep it. It's got us a last-minute winner. I wonder how far it will take us." - PA Sport.