England’s all-time leading goalscorer returned to the Manchester United starting line-up last weekend in a 1-0 win over newly relegated Aston Villa. After spending the last two months on the sidelines with a knee injury, the 30 year-old eased his way back in with 67 minutes to be replaced by Jesse Lingard.
The reappearance of Rooney is timely for England coach Roy Hodgson, who will be looking closely at his captain’s form and fitness with a matter of weeks until the squad for Euro 2016 is to be named. After the recent International friendlies against Holland – and most notably Germany, the Three Lions put in an excellent performance without their talisman, with the debate raging strong about Rooney and his status as a guaranteed England starter.
Bookmakers rate Hodgson’s men as fourth favourites to win the European Championships, and with a fine array of attacking potency with Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Rooney and others, the England boss must find the correct equilibrium for tournament success.
The rapid emergence of Tottenham striker, Harry Kane is a huge boost to the national team, and the 22 year-old forward has, so far, made the transition from domestic scorer to international hitman seamless. After just ten appearances at the highest level, Kane has scored four goals. Those statistics may not strike fear into the defensive stars from France, Spain or Germany, but Kane is undoubtedly one of the most promising attackers in world football due to his exceptional club efforts.
Equally adept as a lone striker, or in a partnership, Kane has the necessary tactical awareness required at international level to succeed. Standing at 6’2”, Kane uses his size and power to cope with rigorous defenders, along with no shortage of skill and ability to link up play with others around him. But his finest attribute is his finishing, with a catalogue of fine goals already for Spurs that must make Kane an almost certain starter when the tournament begins.
Less than four years ago, Jamie Vardy was playing for Fleetwood Town before a £1m move to Leicester City – and how things have changed for the 29 year-old since. In this campaign alone, Vardy has scored in 11 consecutive Premier League games, which broke the previous best of ten set by Ruud van Nistelrooy. The speedy striker has also won the Premier League Player of the Month twice, and with 22 league goals has been hugely instrumental in Leicester’s meteoric rise to the summit of the Premier league table.
Vardy has taken the league by storm. His direct play with blistering pace and razor-sharp finishing has been too much for most this season. His recent cameo appearance in the 3-2 international friendly win over Germany showed Vardy at his impudent best with a sublime back-flick finish that left Manuel Neuer utterly bemused. The Leicester man offers a different option to the rest of Hodgson’s forward selections, and could be a very potent weapon if used correctly.
With 51 goals from 109 appearances, Wayne Rooney already has the status of an England legend. However, the critics are already sharpening their knives in anticipation of another downfall of the national team in the summer, and they also believe that Rooney – despite his record scoring exploits is a player on the decline, who should move aside for others in a more youthful England team. However, experience counts for a huge amount at international level, and Hodgson will almost certainly count on his captain for the qualification campaign when the competition starts.
Kane is the centre-forward that England have been missing since the days of Alan Shearer, one that can offer huge problems for the finest defenders. The striking burden then can be released on captain Rooney, who may drop into a more withdrawn role, to orchestrate attacks behind Kane. Vardy might be best used as an impact substitute, who can run at tired defences to open up opportunities for himself, and others late on in games.
Hopefully England can keep their strikers fit for the big tournament this summer, and who knows how far the likes of Kane, Rooney and Vardy will take them!