Wayne Rooney Must Prove He's Still Crucial to English Hopes

Greg JohnsonSpecial to Bleacher ReportOctober 8, 2013

WARSAW, POLAND - OCTOBER 17:  Wayne Rooney of England celebrates scoring to make it 1-0 during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier between Poland and England at the National Stadium on October 17, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Over the past nine or so years, Wayne Rooney has been a complex character when it comes to the English national team.

Selected and played even when out of form and unfit, the squad's various managers have been reluctant to drop the Manchester United forward due to his ability to produce magic even when playing within himself.

Memories of Rooney's heroics as an 18-year-old lighting up Euro 2004 have become a mythology by which call-ups for the attacker are forever assured, regardless of the protests from unconvinced England fans who'd rather see the team kick the habit of relying on their inconsistent talisman.


Roy Hodgson's time as manager has so far been marked by accusations of a lack of ambition and sophistication, especially when it comes to his tactics.

With England set to face Montenegro and Poland in two vital home games to secure their place at the top of their World Cup Qualifying group, pragmatist plans based around being hard-to-beat may not be enough.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - JUNE 21:  Wayne Rooney of England scores his second goal during the UEFA Euro 2004, Group B match between Croatia and England at the Luz Stadium on June 21, 2004 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Having been unavailable to play in the team's last games against Moldova and a crunch away match in the Ukraine due to two messy injuries first to his shin and later to his head, a right-minded Rooney could be the added element to lift Hodgson's system.

Skeptics may question whether a return to prominence for Rooney shows Hodgson's England falling back into old habits and past mistakes instead of reinstating a player currently in-form for his club.

Rooney has spoken to the press about the challenges facing him and his countrymen in their next two games, as per Sky Sports:

"We're going to do it. We're going to get to the World Cup. I'm confident, we're confident, but you always have to be sure you're not over-confident. These are going to be two tough games for us but we're good enough to do it.

"They are going to be two tough games, though, because Montenegro and Poland are good sides and their best qualities are on the counter attack. We will have to try and break them down and make sure we don't get caught out at the back. I think we'll do it, but nobody should think it's going to be easy."

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United retrieves the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford on September 17, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo b
Michael Regan/Getty Images

According to The Guardian, he has also told the media of his disappointment at the performances of his United teammates in helping ease David Moyes into life at Old Trafford, it would seem that Rooney is keen to ensure standards are kept high for those around him.

During the summer, amid rumours of transfer requests and a desire to link-up with Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Rooney's professionalism and lifestyle were openly questioned in the press, as per The Mirror.

Now he's arguably been United's most important player, steadying an unsettled ship and taking greater responsibility for the outcome of games with Robin Van Persie struggling for fitness.

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 08: Wayne Rooney of England in action during a training session at St Georges Park on October 8, 2013 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

If he can replicate this commitment to the cause and focus on the team while on England duty, Hodgson may have a ready and reliable match winner.

However, should Rooney once again slip into a clumsy malaise when placed under the glare of the national team spotlight, his continued stream of caps may have to cease, with a new batch of players, including Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge, blossoming and ready to replace him as playmaker and goalscorer.

After all, Montenegro and Poland are opponents that will cause England far more problems than mere complacency and Hodgson will need every single one of his players to prove their worth, not least the man purported to be the greatest English footballer of his generation.