Rashford to the rescue
Bright young thing can lift England out of dark age
ENGLAND v MALTA
(Tonight, 11.50pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
Marcus Rashford probably has no idea has much his country need him right now.
Quiet and unassuming, he's preoccupied with his teeth, or at least the invisible braces on his teeth.
According to reports, his Manchester United teammates are making fun of his uncharacteristic extravagance.
With a new £20,000-a-week deal, he has invested with a top dentist to fix a crooked smile.
But, as he prepares for his first England start against Malta tonight, he could unwittingly help to fix his industry's crooked reputation.
Rashford can finally give the English game something to smile about.
After a couple of weeks of gluttonous fools being caught on camera, the 18-year-old feels like he's fallen out of the sky; an innocent throwback to simpler times.
Nicky Butt, who nurtured the striker's talent at United's academy, speaks of Rashford being polite, level-headed and humble.
He's the club's "shining light", but much the same could be said at the national level.
In a weary environment worn down by corruption and sleaze, a shy kid with a goofy grin can play like a grown-up after too many instances of grown-ups behaving like greedy kids.
Rashford must start against Malta.
Caretaker manager Gareth Southgate is blessed with inferior opposition and a chance to make both a tactical and political statement.
The day of the dinosaur is done.
Roy Hodgson gave Rashford a derisory two-minute cameo in the Euro 2016 farce against Iceland.
England had no speed, ingenuity, invention or any sense of surprise in France.
Rashford had all four, but he spent most of the game on the bench.
Sam Allardyce, the proud Englishman determined to rouse his sleeping Lions, promised risk and endeavour when he took over.
Boldness was going to be his friend. So Rashford should have been his friend. But the kid was dismissed as just that, a kid, and was left to play with his Under-21 pals.
So he knocked in a hat-trick against Norway.
Rashford played as he always does, as Michael Owen did at the 1998 World Cup, as Pele did at the 1958 World Cup, for fun, for teenage kicks.
Southgate, his Under-21 coach, sees what Allardyce refused to acknowledge and Jose Mourinho is struggling with at Old Trafford.
Youth isn't wasted on the young on a football field.
Rashford plays on instinct. He doesn't over-think. Second-guessing opponents have yet to disrupt his decision-making.
Perhaps that will come later. For now, he's like a young Wayne Rooney. He drives forward on autopilot.
He shoots from every conceivable angle. He aims for the improbable at every opportunity.
He doesn't take the path of least resistance.
He takes risks; big, bold beautiful risks that drop jaws and rip bums off seats.
Why would anyone want to leave such rare commodities on the bench, waiting for age and experience to gradually erode his youthful talents?
Owen and Rooney, perhaps the closest Englishmen to Rashford in terms of their explosive entrance as teenagers, have both highlighted how their games had to be adapted over time.
For Rooney, it was physical. His ageing, battered body continues to betray him.
For Owen, it was psychological. As he got older, he began to look for shortcuts; the weak side of a centre back, the defender who lacked pace and so forth.
But when Owen was a kid, he didn't care. He took on all comers. He didn't worry about defenders. They had to worry about him.
His natural confidence and ignorance were his greatest assets, just as they are now for Rashford.
His four goals in nine appearances for United reveal a fast, unpredictable striker utterly unfazed by the occasion, the venue or the opposition.
His fearlessness, while it lasts, makes him a freakish anomaly.
Mental fragility has made a mess of one England tournament after another, creating too many shattered Humpty Dumptys and not enough heroes.
Rashford could conceivably change that. And the stars have aligned to allow him to shine brightly tonight.
The minnows of Malta will provide the target practice. A new coach stands on the touchline.
And a nation finds itself at rock bottom, still feeling the chill from Iceland and a brain freeze from Allardyce.
The only way is up, surely, with Rashford leading the revival.
The sensitive teenager might be worried about his teeth, but he can add serious bite to England's attack.
Wenger: An Englishman should manage England
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says there has been no contact from the Football Association over the England job, which he believes would be best filled by an English coach.
Wenger, who turns 67 at the end of this month, is in the final season of his current Arsenal contract, having earlier this month marked 20 years in the job.
Before the international break, Wenger said that it is possible he could "one day" manage England if he had no club commitments.
FA chief executive Martin Glenn says Wenger would be among the candidates who "perfectly" fit the criteria as the search begins for the permanent successor to Sam Allardyce.
Wenger, though, has told beIN Sports he was yet to hear from anyone at the FA over the vacancy, which is one he says should be given to an Englishman.
"There has been no contact," he said in an interview broadcast on www.beinsports.com.
"There is nothing really to add. Personally, I want England to do well."
Wenger stressed he felt the role would be best served by a home-grown coach, with Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate having taken up the job on an interim basis.
"It is very important (that the manager is an Englishman), I have always said that," the Gunners boss added.
"A country like England, with a huge football passion... and as well the structure of the national team (it) looks to me (that it) demands a guy from your own nation is the leader.
"If you think that tomorrow you are the coach of France and you play against England, when the national anthem is played of England, you cannot sing it and you cannot sing as well the anthem of the team you are leading.
"It looks to me a bit strange, that is why I like what is logical... I think it is better (to have an Englishman)."
Wenger had previously been linked with taking over in the England hotseat earlier in his career.
He said: "It is quite simple. My first priority was always Arsenal.
"The second thing I would have considered was to stay in England.
"It would be difficult for me to manage another English team, and so the second possibility would have been England, but my priority was always my club."
- PA Sport.