John Nicholson has a confession for you this morning, so don't laugh. Johnny also believes he shares his inability to perform on demand with Wayne Rooney. So there...
No-one likes to see a once great player suffering through the decline of his own body. John Nicholson believes some difficult decisions lie ahead for Steven Gerrard...
I keep reading and hearing it said that it'll be a 'brave' decision for Roy Hodgson to drop Wayne Rooney for the game against Uruguay. But whether it's the right or wrong thing to take him out of the side, to do so surely requires no bravery at all. The really brave decision would actually be to keep Rooney in the team.
He's contributed the square root of almost nothing in World Cup tournaments fit or unfit, no matter where he plays on the pitch, in position or out of position - if indeed, after a career of being shifted all over the pitch, he has a position at all.
If we lose without Rooney in the side, absolutely no one can point at Roy and say, 'well, we'd have won if he'd picked him', because his World Cup form does not in any way back that guesswork. Everyone knows that now. There will be no feared press uproar because defending Rooney's form at World Cups is almost impossible.
To support the inclusion of Rooney we need some evidence that he can play well in a World Cup. There is none. There are so few games to play, a player has to be good now. The great players are already scoring great goals.
The hardest task for Hodgson is to give a reason for dropping Rooney that isn't the brutal truth - that he's not good enough, often enough, and what he does do, others can now do as well, or better. One superb assist is not enough. We have other players who can do that and more.
It is Rooney's unreasonably sky-high profile which makes the decision a notable one, of course. If he were a less celebrated player who had played in the exact same way, there would be no question at all that his place was up for grabs after so many four or five or six out of ten performances when there are no nines or tens. None. Dropping him would barely make a ripple.
But in the same way that large swathes of the public have finally realised that England are okay, but not great and that you need a lot more than passion and a bandage on your head to be successful at a World Cup, so most have also realised that Rooney isn't great at World Cups. It doesn't take great insight, all we've had to do is just sit and watch him not be great at World Cups. As a result, most would accept the decision to drop him with relief rather than fury. Maybe even Wayne would. The pressure must be oppressive for him.
I suspect there is a widespread desire to see Rooney dropped. Should we lose without him, the manager is likely to be complimented for at least having the balls to make a change and try something different, and if we win, he'll be hailed as a man who can make big decisions, a man who doesn't just keep hoping against hope that Super Wayne will turn up. That's why dropping Rooney does not need a brave decision, it's no-brainer. By all means lose trying to do something new, but don't lose doing the same old, same old. The reaction to the Italian defeat proves the efficacy of that.
The truly brave decision would be to make no change and keep Rooney in the side becasue if he fails again and England lose, Hodgson has nowhere to hide. He will be accused of putting too much faith in a player who self-evidently can't perform to the top of his form in this context. And losing with Rooney in the side and not playing very well is what usually happens at a tournament. We don't want that.
It is an important decision whether to select him or not, but not a brave one. And anyway, what's wrong with him being a substitute? Why can't Wayne be an impact sub? It's not an insult. Subs are really important. Is Roy worried he'll get fat if he doesn't play every minute?
We're forever told 'Wayne needs games'; the problem is, at a World Cup, the games just don't need him.
Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com