| Rooney: Still to earn coach’s confidence
Sven-Goran Eriksson, the England coach, on Sunday dismissed the growing clamour for Wayne Rooney to start against Turkey in Wednesday’s Euro 2004 Group Seven qualifier at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
“We shouldn’t expect him to come in and resolve the game against Turkey,” Eriksson said. Rooney replaced the hobbling Emile Heskey 10 minutes from the end of England’s uninspiring 2-0 success in Liechtenstein on Saturday.
Heskey’s knee problem has eased and he will join in training at Slaley Hall, near Hexham in Northumberland on Monday. “Rooney might be good enough to start but I think Heskey will be ok for Wednesday,” Eriksson said.
The only change may prove to be Sol Campbell for Gareth Southgate. The Arsenal defender’s Achilles tendon problem has improved enough for him to resume training on Monday. Eriksson also indicated that, even if personnel alterations were minimal, the tactics might be different from Saturday’s 4-4-2. “It’s not 100 per cent sure we will play against Turkey like we did against Liechtenstein,” said Eriksson, who has used 4-3-3 and a diamond formation in the past.
Yet it is the Rooney versus Heskey debate that occupies most minds, including Sir Bobby Robson, the former national team manager, who argued on Saturday that if England have talent like Rooney they should “flaunt” it. Even internationals like Gary Neville back Rooney. “Rooney’s a man at 17 and sometimes you have to give them (young players) their head and let them go,” Neville said. “That’s what we’ll have to do with Rooney.
“It was difficult for him against Liechtenstein because he only got 15 minutes when the rest of the team had eased up (at 2-0 up). But he showed some good touches and showed that he could link up play as well. He has fitted in really well. You would never think he was so young.” Eriksson joined in the praise of Rooney. “He’s strong, good with the ball, quick and scores goals. He doesn’t seem nervous. Wayne Rooney is ready, but part-time.”
England’s fans clearly disagree, with shouts of “Get Rooney on now” starting after only 16 minutes in the modest Rheinpark Stadium.
Neville put England’s insipid display down to the low-key occasion. “It was an England international but felt like a pre-season friendly. You try to get yourself up for it. Wednesday will feel like a Euro 2004 qualifying match and we won’t need any artificial motivation; there will be 40,000 of our people and we’re playing the team who finished third at the World Cup with great players like Emre from Inter.
“We can’t afford to be so sloppy with balls going under people’s feet, passes going out of play and me being beaten in the air by a midget. These sloppy things don’t happen in a big game because the edge is there. We won’t get a moment’s peace against Turkey, who are fantastic at keeping the ball. Our hearts weren’t racing against Liechtenstein as they will be on Wednesday.”