Why the Problematic Wayne Rooney Might Actually Have Solved Roy Hodgson's England Conundrum

29/04/2016 15:26 | Updated 10 June 2016

Captain. All-time leading goalscorer. The most experienced of the bunch. And yet, Wayne Rooney is apparently the man who deserves to be nowhere near the new-look England team at Euro 2016.

Give way, Wayne, for the new generation. One Twitter user even urged him to "make your country proud and retire" - summing up significant calls from a large section of his nation's fans. And that was one of the nicer messages.

Many believe that the Manchester United skipper warrants not even a place in the squad of 23 to travel to France this summer, off the back of his performances this season.

A tad extreme, perhaps, but there's an understandable demand for the long-serving number ten to step aside in some fashion. Roy Hodgson, though, isn't stupid enough nor ballsy enough to leave Wayne Rooney at home, injury permitting.

The more realistic question is whether Rooney deserves to start for England in the European Championship opener against Russia on June 11. He's not been great this season - and he's admitted that himself - but that factor coupled with the emergence of a new crop of English attacking talent has really put the 30-year-old on the chopping block.

Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy - both English forwards - occupy two of the top three spots in the Premier League's goalscoring charts. Rooney, by contrast, has just seven league strikes to his name. Surely then, he has no right to deprive one or both of the place they deserve in England's first choice line up at centre forward?

Rooney, despite repeated spells there throughout his career, is no wide player either. Stick him on the left and you lose his ingenuity, and sacrifice pace. But play him in his long-debated best position of attacking midfield, and there's another young stud he's stopping from flourishing when he deserves to.

That man - Dele Alli - is another of Tottenham's shining lights, and the newly-crowned PFA Young Player of the Year. But for his short fuse and occasional punchy nature, he's England's new midfield king in waiting.

Just where does Rooney go, then? On the bench? Possibly, but who honestly expects Hodgson to make that call?

If fit, he'll start, don't doubt it. Though after the months of debate and the calls for him to be dropped for more deserving teammates, Rooney may have solved all of Hodgson's problems simultaneously since returning from his latest injury setback.

Rooney has long been touted for a deep-lying role in midfield. And because of the recent emergence of another exciting forward in Marcus Rashford at Manchester United, Red Devils supremo Louis van Gaal has essentially been given no choice but to stick him there - be it by dumb luck or great judgement.

And lord has he flourished. Rooney's game has always suited a deeper role in his later years, but after a number of false dawns in the middle, his time might just have come. His excellent passing range and clever footballing brain make him perfectly suited, and the fact he doesn't contribute quite as much as he used to - as it's been almost universally recognised - suggests the time for change has arrived.

Against Crystal Palace last week and in the FA Cup semi-final win over Everton at the weekend, Rooney controlled the tempo of each game for large spells. But for his lack of ginger hair and the name and number on his back, you'd have been forgiven for thinking you were watching Paul Scholes doing his business in that red shirt long after his time.

Rooney also provided the platform for others to attack from. An extended spell in the role through the end of United's season, and some experimentation from Hodgson in England's pre-tournament friendlies should give us a better idea of his capabilities there - but it's certainly worth a try.

Even old Wayne himself is coming around to the idea, ​saying this week: "I've known for a few years. I have played there a few times throughout my career and I can play that position.

"I have played and watched Paul Scholes play that role for years and I always knew that one day that is where I would play, so I have tried to learn and watch what he did. It is still early days, but hopefully, if I keep playing there, I can develop and get better.

"We have got a lot of pace in the team now and I think I can read the game quite well - whether to go forward or stay deeper and leave the space for the other lads."

Dropping Rooney deeper allows room for both Alli and Kane - and even Vardy if Hodgson plumps for it - to take their positions, while Rooney sits as a suitable alternative for Jordan Henderson, who could miss out altogether through injury. And heck, there's even room for Eric Dier to sit at the base of the midfield.

Make what you will over Jack Wilshere's possible return to the fold, but there's a quota of players in the England squad who deserve to start at Euro 2016. Leaving Rooney in a deeper role could provide the answer to Roy Hodgson's ongoing selection headache.

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