I hope Wayne Rooney scores tonight to break England’s goalscoring record, but is he as good a player as Sir Bobby Charlton was, the man he is set to surpass? No. He is not in that class.
One further strike will see Rooney out on his own as the country’s all-time leading marksman in international football and there is no doubt that he is a great England player and deserves to be classed in the realm of great goalscorers for his country.
But only through statistics can he be associated with the cream. I think his performances for England could have been far better, in truth. I don’t think he has made the most of his undoubted talent.
I am a big fan of his in plenty of ways although I do get frustrated sometimes with his lack of concentration in his passing and his first touch, yet scoring the amount of goals he has despite those criticisms goes to show the level of ability he does possess.
He must also be applauded for finding the net so consistently regardless of where he has been asked to play. He is so adaptable as a frontman, which makes him unique. He has managed to score while playing as a No9 or No10, or on the right of a front three.
Rooney is a great competitor and has a faultless attitude but to assume legendary status on the international stage, as the likes of Charlton, Bobby Moore and Gordon Banks have done, and particularly as a goalscorer, he has to fire at a major tournament.
Thirty five of his 49 international strikes have come in competitive games although just six have come in the pressurised environment of a tournament, including just one at a World Cup.
He is only 29 and has 106 caps. That figure could easily rise beyond 150 and who knows how many goals he will finish up with? Another tournament is coming up next year, and possibly a total of three more in his career, and it’s vital that he shines at those.
Turning to tonight’s match against Switzerland at Wembley, qualification for Euro 2016 has been secured but my message to England manager Roy Hodgson would be ditch any notion of rotation. England do not need experimentation.
When I watch England, even against a lower category side such as San Marino at the weekend, the players looked nervous on the ball until Rooney’s opening goal from the penalty spot. That sort of struggle stems from an anxiety to well.
It was the same when I played for England. Because there are limited opportunities to impress and nail down a place in international football, the decision-making of players tends to be affected due to that anxiety.
Things get done in a more hurried fashion and often the safer option is taken rather than the riskier choice, which those same players would opt for when turning out for their clubs. It’s a mentality thing.
In their three remaining qualification games and then the friendlies before Euro 2016, I hope Hodgson plays a team as close to what he envisages his starting XI for that opening game in France to be as many times as he can.
The more experience players have under their belts, the better their performances will be, as will their ability to perform under pressure. For me, a set group and a strong core is imperative to get out of a safety first mindset.