It seems to be the popular opinion to point all the blame for England’s misgivings on Wayne Rooney.
Alongside David Beckham, never has a player had such scrutiny over every move he makes.
But last night, Rooney proved he is the solution and not the problem that so many fans believe he is.
Always available for a pass, always on the move and always one step ahead of the game, Rooney was not at his very best but was key in last night’s biggest moment.
He picked the ball up and motored through the Swiss defence, and played a perfectly weighted ball for Raheem Sterling, whose equally excellent centre found hero of the night Danny Welbeck – 1-0, and Rooney made his big moment count.
His critics will argue that he was poor at the World Cup, and should be dropped all together. But it is amazing that someone with his scoring record and willingness to adapt for the team is still trying to convince England fans he is worth a place in the XI.
On 97 caps and only eight behind Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time goalscoring record, we are witnessing English football history. But instead of supporting the player, fans are quick to chastise Rooney and make him the villain. Rooney’s achievements will always be deemed inferior to Charlton’s in the fact that international football presents more opportunities and inferior opposition to score against.
But the Manchester United man is scoring goals in an average England side (compared to other Three Lions eras,) and we should be applauding the fact that someone is good enough to score that many goals for his country.
He has been far from perfect for England, like many others. He was not perfect last night. But he didn’t seemed burdened by early chances going astray, he seemed to thrive under the captaincy. He is a better captain than people give him credit for, and he offered plenty of encouragement for those around him.
And we all know good footballers compliment others. Sterling and Rooney were on the same wavelength and sharp all night, both brought the best out of each other.
Sterling has taken added responsibility in the side, and he is among a sea of positives for the Three Lions. As shown last night, when England attack, they have pace to burn, and if it can be harnessed, then it can be unplayable. That still remains a large work in progress, but it seems to be the forefront to Roy Hodgson’s ‘new era.’
More positives are to follow – it can only get better, particularly with Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, Theo Walcott and Daniel Sturridge all to return, giving Hodgson plenty of options and things to look at.
The Scotland friendly aside, this is the most tense football Hodgson’s men will play for around 21 months. Qualification is assured, make no mistake. That is not an arrogant statement, but one unfortunately, which reflects UEFA’s absurd qualifying system.
And England will prepare for the tournament with Rooney as their leader whether the fans like it or not, but they should feel blessed that we have a player of his ilk to lead us there.