Play Rooney behind Sturridge
In-form Pool forward deserves main striker's role for England
Like it or not, the obsession with Wayne Rooney rages on.
The latest episode had England greats Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker weighing in with their opinions on how Rooney, England's best striker of his generation, should be deployed in Brazil.
Charlton, the star of England's 1966 World Cup triumph - their only major trophy to date - can't imagine Roy Hodgson not using Rooney as his main striker.
Lineker, though, feels Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has done enough to guarantee himself the No. 9 role.
Opinions vary, like how England fans were so divided on how to fit Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the same team.
But dropping Rooney altogether will be a huge mistake.
One poor outing in a friendly against Peru, when he is not even fully match-fit yet, is no reason for a knee-jerk reaction.
The only question is where Hogdson should deploy Rooney, not whether the Manchester United striker still has a place in a young England side.
Sturridge, confident from a successful Premier League season with Liverpool for whom he scored 21 goals in 29 league matches, should get the nod as the centre forward for the Three Lions.
His form, as seen in his excellent goal against Peru, makes him the strongest candidate for that position.
The 24-year-old has the explosive burst of speed to turn the last defender, and a single-mindedness to his game that makes him a wonderful weapon in the penalty box.
He thrived for Liverpool whenever his manager Brendan Rodgers played him as the furthest man forward.
It will therefore be absurd to move him out of a position where he is going to be most effective, and has proven to be.
But Sturridge's inclusion in the England side doesn't turn Rooney into a redundancy. Far from it.
As Man United laboured through a difficult campaign, Rooney was one of their better players.
Even under those difficult circumstances, the 28-year-old knocked in 17 goals, a mark that puts him joint-fourth in the Premiership top-scorers' chart, and only four goals behind Sturridge.
He might not have been at his blistering best. But to suggest that he's over the hill is far off the mark.
Unleash him in the hole behind Sturridge, and Rooney still has more than anyone else in Hodgson's squad can offer.
Raheem Sterling, another candidate for the playmaker's role, is perhaps better suited on the flanks where he can use his pace to better effect.
Experience also gives Rooney a big advantage.
He has the instincts and creativity to excel between the lines, in a function he has performed much of the time for club and country over the last few years.
He thrives on space, and is often most dangerous when he arrives late into the box.
His tendency to drift wide or deep pulls defenders out of position, which opens up space in the middle for midfielders to run into, and at the same time still leaves England with a focal point in Sturridge up front.
On top of all that, Rooney will remain a goal threat.
Playing off Sturridge may turn out to be the best thing to happen to Rooney's England career.
HAVE YOUR SAY
- Should Roy Hodgson play Wayne Rooney as the main striker or behind Daniel Sturridge? E-mail your views to npsports@sph,com.sg.
WEIGHING IN ON WAYNE
One thing should be pretty permanent — and that is Sturridge plays up front, in the middle. He gives us different options. He gives us a threat behind the opposition defence, which I think is really important and that’s something Wayne Rooney doesn’t do so frequently. Rooney’s very good at coming off of course, creating space, turning, hitting shots and bringing other people into the game, working hard, but in terms of a threat behind the opposition’s defence, that’s Sturridge’s territory.
- Former England striker Gary Lineker says Daniel Sturridge should be Roy Hodgson’s No. 1 option up front
Wayne Rooney is the only one who comes to mind when you think of where are our class players are coming from. Rooney will have to play. He’s just got that something extra. He will thrive, I think, on a successful performance in the World Cup.
- England’s all-time leading scorer Sir Bobby Charlton says Rooney is the only “class” player in Hodgson’s squad
Poyet: Beware of Uruguay's 'tricks'
Gus Poyet has told England's players they are "too nice" and warned Uruguay will try all the tricks in the book to come out on top of Group D at the World Cup.
England's match against the South American outfit is their second in the pool and the contest is likely to prove pivotal in deciding who progress to the knockout stage in Brazil.
Poyet, who earned 26 caps for Uruguay as a player, admits his countrymen will do whatever it takes to get the right result against Roy Hodgson's side on June 19.
"Whatever it is, to stop you, to win the game, we do that and we are proud of that," the Sunderland manager said.
"We will play that game. We won't accept that you are better than us. I won't accept that you are better than me.
"If you're better than me, I will find a way to stop you - I'm not going to accept you're better than me because if I do, I lose.
"I think that's a way you win more than you lose - if you just play the game and if you are worse you lose, then you don't want to win more than me."
Uruguay's star player Luis Suarez was at the centre of controversy at the 2010 World Cup when he deliberately prevented a goal with a handball on the line in the last minute of extra time in the quarter-final against Ghana.
Suarez was sent off, but the resulting penalty was missed and Uruguay prevailed in the shoot-out to reach the semi-finals.
Poyet says English football needs to get tough and believes Suarez did nothing wrong four years ago.
"Are England too nice? Yes, without a doubt," Poyet added, speaking at the launch of ITV's World Cup coverage.
"I know that for you a handball on the goal-line is cheating.
"It's not for us - it's part of the game.
"If I'm the last man and you're running and I pull your shirt and you go down and I get sent off - is that cheating? No, it's not cheating.
"I know it was massive in England but that's a surprise for us - he saved it, he was sent off, it was a penalty.
"It's worse for us when you do something that no-one sees, like punching someone, but a handball on the goal-line is a handball on the goal-line."
- PA Sport.