Former England international Mick Channon has delivered a scathing attack on England’s striking options ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
The former Southampton forward—who netted 21 goals in 45 appearances for the Three Lions—dubbed Wayne Rooney England’s “weak link” and questioned the credentials of both Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck ahead of the Brazil showpiece.
For me, Wayne Rooney is not the strong link, he’s the weak link. I’ve got a lot of time for him but he’s never delivered in World Cups, has he?
This time, he’s got to come to the party. It’s time to step up, boy.
Channon, who is now a reputable flat-racing trainer, didn’t stop there. Next up it was the turn of Rooney’s Manchester United teammate Welbeck and Liverpool’s Sturridge to come in for some flak.
The former Saints star claimed that whilst the aforementioned twosome “have got legs,” he remains unconvinced as to “whether they’re good enough or have the right temperament” for top-level international football.
Whilst Welbeck has admittedly endured a frustrating season on the fringes of the first team at Old Trafford, Sturridge and Rooney will be going into this World Cup on the back of strong individual campaigns for their clubs.
Here’s how the three fared last season:
|England Striker Comparison (Premier League)|
|Player||Appearances (As a Sub)||Goals||Assists|
|Wayne Rooney||27 (2)||17||10|
|Danny Welbeck||15 (10)||9||1|
|Daniel Sturridge||26 (23)||21||7|
Rooney has failed to net at a World Cup in his 11 years as an England player and there is plenty of clout to Channon’s claims that he’s failed to sparkle for the Three Lions when it really matters. He famously burst onto the world stage with four goals at Euro 2004 as an 18-year-old, but since then, his preparations for major tournaments have been punctured by problems with his personal life and fitness.
His former Manchester United teammate Paul Scholes provided another insight as to why Rooney has failed to deliver for England on these momentous occasions, as noted here by The Guardian's Daniel Taylor:
But earlier this month Rooney insisted his preparations are going smoothly for this World Cup and he’s desperate to put the record straight in Brazil, per Henry Winter of The Telegraph:
I want to prove myself at this level, which I haven’t been able to do before. This is my last big one to get the best out of me and I want to be as good as I can.
At the World Cup in 2018 I will be older and it will be difficult to make an impact on that. It’s a tough tournament. But I feel good. I am settled at home with my family. I have no issues whatsoever.
Channon’s criticism of Sturridge seems a little unfair, especially after a scintillating breakthrough season with Liverpool.
The former Chelsea man has been in sensational form for the Reds, helping to spearhead an unexpected but ultimately ill-fated title charge. By the end of the campaign, only Sturridge's strike partner Luis Suarez topped him in the top-scorer standings, per BBC Sport.
Sturridge will be playing in his first major international tournament, and whilst that is always difficult, he has showcased a newfound maturity in his time at Liverpool that suggests he is ready to perform on the biggest stages.
He certainly has “legs” as Channon alluded to, but under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers he has refined erratic areas of his game whilst preserving that patented dynamism, making the 24-year-old a much more formidable opponent.
But Channon’s criticisms do touch on an underpinning concern for England supporters, in that there is a lack of major-tournament pedigree within what is a refreshing but young and inexperienced group of players.
It means the performances of big names that have played at the highest level—like Rooney and Sturridge—will be key to English hopes. But with both players coming into the tournament off the back of prosperous individual campaigns and the burden of expectation lifted from this England camp, expect some enterprising performances from the Three Lions’ forward duo out in South America.