Over the Roon or will it be rack and Roon?

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney

First published in Sport
Last updated
by , Deputy sports editor

ONE of the worst-kept secrets in international football was revealed this week when Wayne Rooney was named the new England captain.

The honour – dubious in some quarters given England’s recent propensity for MTF (major tournament failure) – was accorded to national coach Roy Hodgson as he sought a successor to Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard, whose armband tenure he gave up after the debacle in Rio.

Remember Rio. Three group games, two goals, one single point. Aahh, heady days.

Now it’s the European Championship qualifying campaign to prepare for. You know the drill. Emphatic group performances, table-topping and highest scoring and then into the tournament proper and phlump...another case of what might have been.

Rooney is Hodgson’s choice for that journey, which will always be accompanied by pundits and fans who, operating from the same Del Boy lexicon of optimism, will hope: “this time next year we’ll be....”

But was there any alternative to Rooney to wear the Three Lions armband, to be the man who calls heads or tails when asked, to be the official bearer of an FA pennant to give to his opposite number?

Once Gerrard had left the international scene, which he graced far more impressively than his detractors will admit, Rooney was the principal, if not the only, candidate.

The one other possibility was goalkeeper Joe Hart, which must have been purely based on longevity in the squad, even if occupying the number one spot at his club Man City is now under threat from that extra from the set of the Magnificent Seven Go Again, Willy Caballero.

Hart is no Gordon Banks, let alone no Dino Zoff or Iker Casillas, goalkeeping captains who have led national teams to the ultimate World Cup prize.

There remains that old adage that what you need is a team of captains. But, come on, in all honesty have you ever come across a side in that particular mode?

Nah. It’s like having a team of left-footers – favouring the left boot and nothing to do with religion, folks – or a team of six-footers (not even the old Crazy Gang of Wimbledon could attest to that claim, given they had a certain Dennis Wise in their regular ranks).

If you are going to have a national captain then you need one that will provide some sort of lift, some kind of leadership, some kind of get up and go gusto.

World Cup winning skipper, the late Bobby Moore, was one of those leaders who motivated those around him by his own glacial cool and composure, while one of his successors, Bryan Robson, would do so in the tear ‘em up, let’s get at ‘em drive.

Both were contrasts but equally effective in galvanising team-mates, putting off opponents and firing up support.

Other than those two though, with the exception of a brief reign held by Terry ‘bloodied and head-bandaged’ Butcher, there have not been many impressive England leaders.

Kevin Keegan? Gary Lineker? Alan Shearer? Forwards seldom do make creative or commanding captains. By nature they have to be self-centred as they focus on acquiring goals and yet more goals, which could spell trouble for the new man.

However, he has done the job before, and is now the captain of his club, so knows what it is about, even if, I suspect, had he not been given the nod by Hodgson a certain amount of toys may have been some distance away from a perambulator.

There was a suggestion by Lineker, who also admitted relishing the description accorded him of ‘former England captain’, that the England squad should choose who to lead the team out as is, apparently done, across Europe.

That could be messy, especially if you have too distinct cliques in the England camp. It would be like Scotland yes or no, all over again.

But captain by vote, hmm. Would that be a secret ballot? Would international arbitrators have to be appointed? Surely the FA would at least have to summon red Gary Neville in to officiate.

If the ballot box was not the chosen method, then if the FA blazers ferreted enough through the ephemera that has no doubt accumulated over the last five decades they might locate a bag of bingo balls beloved of former Leeds and England manager Don Revie.

Eyes down, dobbers ready. Downing Street, number ten, come on in Wayne.

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