Wayne Rooney's three-match ban at the International level for receiving a straight red card in England's final group stage qualifier against Montenegro means that the Manchester United striker will miss every group stage game in Euro 2012.
As the FA begin their appeals process and Rooney himself reflects on what yet another display of petulance might prevent him from achieving; the thoughts of manager Fabio Capello—and perhaps indeed all fans of the national team—might turn to how England will fare, will have to fare, without him.
Let's not guild the lilly: Wayne Rooney is England's best striker by a mile. None of the others even come close to him in terms of pure ability.
But now, because of the punishment handed down by UEFA, England will have to do without him for half the length of the entire tournament. That is even if the Three Lions do the unthinkable, or at least the unimaginable, and make it to the final.
The question must be asked, therefore: Should Wayne Rooney be picked to go to the tournament at all?
The answer has to be no.
If a player is going into the tournament recovering from injury, the likelihood is that he would not be picked, and this should be no different. The times that England have gambled on taking an injured player, it has backfired rather spectacularly.
Should Capello and his team harbour true ambitions of going into the tournament to win, then England can afford no passengers.
Beckham, Owen, Gerrard and Rooney have all been previously picked to go to major tournaments after not being at full capacity for the opening game or two. In all those cases, none have done themselves or their country justice.
When selecting any player for the roster, whether the player will be more of a benefit than someone else should be the only question asked.Surely a player who cannot even kick a ball for the entire group stage will not be a benefit to the team. Rooney would not be a benefit to the team for that exact reason.
Darren Bent, Andy Carroll, Bobby Zamora and Danny Welbeck were all selected to the squad along with Rooney for the final qualifiers. However, for the tournament itself Capello will be restricted to picking no more than four strikers maximum. Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Gabriel Agbonlahor will all still harbour hopes of a recall before the season is out as well.
Welbeck and Agbonlahor have arguably started the season in the best form, while Bent is a goalscorer and Carroll is now preferred to Crouch as the 'alternative option'. Meaning, there is room for an unavailable player to usurp someone from one of those positions.
And then, consider that England does take Rooney. Consider that he joins in training and watches from the sidelines, suspended, as (for example) Bent and Carroll push England through the group stages and into the quarter finals.
Is it fair then to those two that one is unceremoniously dropped for a player that has contributed nothing on the field to that point? Even if cold-hearted decisions must be taken for the benefit of the team, how will that affect morale and team spirit in what will be undoubtedly close-quarters during the tournament?
It is not just about picking the 23 players who are best. It is not even about making sure that the very best players are in the squad, if not in the team. It has to be about picking players who can go and win the group. Then, win three knock-out matches.
Rooney is a match-winner, there is no doubt about that, and he can beat the continent's greatest defenders at any point... except when he is not on the pitch.
Take a look back at the 2006 World Cup. England took an injured Rooney, an injured Owen, an untried Walcott and Peter Crouch. Crouch ended up being the only fully fit and able forward in the team, which England paid a heavy price for.
If Capello really wants want to go out and win, he cannot afford to take 3 forwards and a suspended Rooney. None of England's other attackers are consistent enough, proven enough at international level or to be quite frank, good enough to trouble the continent's best defences. This means they need options to be able to take one striker out of the firing line and replace them with another one. They need to be able to give the opposition something different to deal with.
Rooney is England's best attacker.
But he should not be going to Euro 2012.