When Wayne Rooney broke his foot as a 18-year-old phenom in the middle of Euro 2004, Sven-Goran Eriksson had no plan B and England were eliminated soon after.
|Wayne Rooney: Down and out, and so are England's chances.|
When Rooney, now a wizened 20, broke his foot on the weekend, Sven says: steady on. Wayne's on his team.
Plan B, Sven? Will you ever learn?
It's obvious that England has been dealt a huge blow with Rooney unavailable until the knockout stage -- that's the most optimistic best-case scenario to which Eriksson is clinging. But here's the other side: they might well be worse off keeping him around now. There's some history here, none of it good for England.
David Beckham was rushed back at the '02 World Cup off a similar injury suffered a month earlier than this one, and was almost invisible. As Rob Hughes notes, don't forget the broken feet of Michael Owen, Ledley King and Ashley Cole. Rooney has broken his metatarsals twice in two years -- taking the summer off is doubtless a more prudent long-term move for him at this point (and for his club, which explains a lot of Alex Ferguson's comment below).
If Rooney's going to be kept on the roster with almost no hope of playing, what's the point? He'll be more distraction than mascot, an extra bit of psychological baggage carried by the strikers (Crouch, Bent, Defoe et al) who Eriksson should be looking at now and building up. At this point, Eriksson and the English need a plan A that doesn't involve Rooney.
Here's Sir Alex's take:
"Sven is going on saying he will take the lad and then in six weeks' time he will have another two weeks to get fit to play in the quarter-final of a World Cup. That is a wild dream. All the other players will be extremely fit because they will have been playing and training for the previous two months. Players who are performing on that stage have to be 100 per cent fit.
"Really, it is folly to suggest the boy could be out of the game for six weeks, then two weeks later go and play in the World Cup quarter-final."
As for the bookmakers, the price on England is rising, host Germany moving up to second choice in the betting behind favoured Brazil.
UPDATE: England have until June 9 to replace Rooney on their roster.