Sport

Debate: Rash Manchester United ace Wayne Rooney may be experienced but should he really captain England?

By Ben Ireland

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has been handed the England captaincy for tonight’s World Cup Qualifier against San Marino, but is he worth the risk?

With Steven Gerrard out of the picture, Hodgson has provided Rooney with an opportunity to show his maturity and leadership qualities by leading the team out at Wembley.

Is he ready yet, or will he ever be?

As a footballer, Rooney is undoubtedly one of our best, and with messers Lampard and Gerrard struggling for international longevity he is second only to the FA’s thorn in the side Ashley Cole in experience.

With Rio Ferdinand outcast and John Terry retired, Rooney would appear the obvious front-runner for the post, but it’s questionable whether the role will improve his game or just simply hold him back.

Granted, tonight’s is a relatively unimportant game, and Rooney could very well run riot against the minnows and have us start a media-frenzy, for a change, about how he is the nation’s saviour and all our chances of success rest solely upon his shoulders.

That would be the telling premier league attitude that Hodgson, with his nomadic experience, was tasked with eradicating. By doing this, he falls under the same bracket as England managers past by conforming to the will of the country.

Perhaps Hodgson’s time spent in Italy provided him with the very Roman attitude of keeping the people happy.

I would hasten to add that our nation’s armband is more than the reserve of our best player. The best captains we’ve had over the years, your Billy Wrights, Bobby Moores and Bryan Robsons, were honest, family men who were not the most exuberant and technically gifted footballers.

History maintains that the captaincy isn’t as simple as an Italian-style ‘icon’ status. That is, give the armband to the most inspirational player, one who is loved by the fans.

Players like Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero endured as captains for Roma and Juventus under this convention, and the former can hardly claim to be a leader in the English sense of the word.

The Italian sense of leadership allows the apparent masculine authority of leaders like Sergio Berlesconi to come to prominence, hence Fabio Capello’s casual handling of the (first) Terry saga.

Rooney, like Totti, isn’t exactly calm and calculated. Rooney’s antics, especially on the international stage, have been petulant at best in the past and with the FA taking a ‘firm stance’ over the captaincy since Terry’s racism debacle, do we really need another auto-biography spouting, speculation enticing, self-satisfied role model in our most hallowed of positions.

Rooney’s outlandish international escapades don’t need listing, but it is safe to say they are many. If our nation has a different attitude to leadership than our continental friends, then cherish it.

So who are the appropriate candidates? It wouldn’t be much use nay-saying without offering some sort of alternative.

Given that we want a loud, organised, consistent and uncontroversial figure who will be the first name on the team sheet, the choice seems clear. Joe Hart.

The City stopper is touted to spend a decade in goal for England following season upon season of solid displays including a world-class performance against Dortmund in the Champions League of late.

By winning the Premier League last season, he has added the winning mentality, or ‘stamp of approval’ required to justify the armband.

If Hodgson is planning a bold new England team for the future, lead with the man who doesn’t make avoidable mistakes, the archetypal English role-model.

The most celebrated and, dare I say it, ‘naturally gifted’ English footballers from times gone by were rarely captains.

The latest examples are Scholes and Lampard – both get on with it game to game and slowly but surely gain recognition from football connoisseurs.

The flawed genius of Paul Gascoigne is another example of when a player, with the shackles off, can make a huge impact on the team and instil a nation’s confidence.

As for Rooney, he may feel a little shrugged and ignored at the news of Joe Hart (rightfully) claiming his dream role, but this is where the master plan comes to fruition.

The captaincy would have had Rooney thinking about other things aside from football. The lack of captaincy can help focus him on the job at hand – making England tick.

With an ounce of frustration, but heavens not too much, we can unleash a riled-up Rooney on teams like the Spanish and Germans with a point to prove.

Look back to his early years when he announced himself on the stage, this is when he was most prominent.

Teams would once again shudder when they hear his name on the team sheet and the Rooney renaissance could be England’s driving force.

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