Rooney storm hangs over England

Allegations about striker’s private life overshadow bid to maintain strong start to Euro 2012 qualifiers

IF ENGLAND manager Fabio Capello was approaching tomorrow’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland with a spring back in his step following a resounding win over Bulgaria it would have quickly vanished yesterday.

Lurid Sunday newspaper allegations regarding Wayne Rooney’s private life have returned the national team to a state of disarray it has become increasingly accustomed to over the past year.

Instead of travelling to Basel with spirits buoyed by Friday’s encouraging first step on the road to the European Championships, England’s players will undertake the journey amid yet another bout of controversy.

And although England officials were last night said to be expecting Rooney to remain in the squad, there are major doubts over how big a part the Manchester United forward will play in the match.

The timing will be particularly frustrating for Capello, whose decision to use Rooney in a deep-lying role against Bulgaria prompted arguably the player’s best performance since late last season.

Rooney joined his team-mates for a full training session yesterday and is thought to have held private talks with Capello over his availability for tomorrow evening’s fixture.

Midfielder James Milner, who acknowledged the team would be weakened by Rooney’s absence, said the squad were trying to ensure the negative headlines did not affect performance.

“We’ve got to make sure they don’t,” Milner said. “Things are always said in the paper, good things, bad things, about the England team when results are going well and when they’re not going well.

“You have highs, you have lows, and it’s down to us to make sure the only thing that matters is on the field, come together and make sure we get the result.

“We had our full training session and back to football is what we’re here to do.

“I think you want the best players out on the field and he’s obviously one of them. He showed that the other night. He’s a top, top player and we want to put out the strongest team possible.”

Asked about Rooney’s state of mind, Manchester City’s Milner replied: “You’re going to have to ask him.”

If Rooney is unavailable, Capello will go into the match without four of his important senior players. Captain Rio Ferdinand and Chelsea duo John Terry and Frank Lampard are all missing with injuries. Capello has been fiercely criticised after a hugely disappointing World Cup.