Mails: Reminiscences of Rooney-less Reds

Date published: Monday 5th September 2016 2:10

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Captain Penny?
Well, after that pile of dross, maybe Allardyce should consider making the ‘coin’ captain. Couldn’t be worse than Rooney.
Mick Tonks


C’mon Kes
Was anyone else reminder of Brian Glover as the Mr Sugden the PE teacher in ‘Kes’ when watching Engerland yesterday?

Sadly, he didn’t want to be Bobby Charlton, preferring instead to give us his portrayal of a man chained to a fridge freezer as he lumbered aimlessly around the park.

He’s Wayne Rooney, he plays where he likes apparently.
Mark Kelly


Tactical Sam: Two mistakes
England made two glaring errors (feel free to say in a Partridge voice, it’s fun) in yesterday’s match:

First they set up in a 4-3-3 but the three midfielders all played in a line meaning there was a big gap between the midfield three and the front three. You need one of the midfield three to move into that space and link the play, but our number 10 (can’t remember his name) decided to play really deep leaving Kane a little isolated. This also meant that whoever fancied getting on the ball for Slovakia in that space had plenty of time. Imagine if we’d played a decent team with an Alonso or Pirlo type? They would have destroyed us with that space. What’s more, I felt a bit sorry for Kane as not only did he have no one playing behind him, but it meant that Slovakia could screen him quite well in that space so it was difficult to get him the ball (hence the low number of touches) We need Alli in there (or Barkley or Wilshere).

Second thing is with all these holding midfielders knocking around it meant that Walker and Rose should have been providing width high up the pitch, otherwise what’s the point of them? Ok, in the second half they got forward a bit more and Rose ended up getting the assist in the final minute, which proves the point that they should have been doing this all game.

By the way, when Sam said of Rooney “it’s not for me to say where he’s going to play”, please tell me a journalist pulled him up on that? That’s exactly your job, Sam Having said that the fact that the entire media knew what the team was going to be 48 hours before the match goes to show the relationship that Sam and the media hope to share.
Kevin G


Oh Sam. Oh wow.
Dead God! It is even worse than many of us probably feared.

“I think that he holds a lot more experience at international football than me as an international manager. Using his experience with a team, playing as a team member, it’s not for me to say where he is going to play.”

In two sentences, the likely approach of ‘Big’ Sam is laid bare.

Apart from the hard to escape notion that, as manager, it is very much for him to say where his players should play, the level of deference displayed is almost emetic.

And crucially, Allardyce clearly conflates ‘Experience’ with ‘Success’. Just playing lots of internationals doesn’t automatically mean you should be untouchable. All 10 of Germany’s most capped players have won the WC*. In that scenario, experience does equal success, and so maybe listening to the players would make sense. But when none of them have achieved anything of note internationally, allowing some of them to pick the team and formation is ridiculous.

It just reinforces my belief that Allardyce basically just wants to prove he can manage ‘big names’, but his actions show this is actually the complete opposite – management involves making tough calls and he won’t do anything that might upset some ‘senior’ players (although telling a player to stay in a specified position during a match should barely even be considerd a call, let alone tough one).
Michael, Basel
* By comparison, only two of the 10 most capped England players have won the WC – Bobbies Moore and Charlton


…So let me get this straight: The job of the England manager is now to pick the eleven most capped players and just let them do whatever the hell they want, right?

I expected many things from Big Sam (mostly disappointment), but I didn’t expect him to be completely gutless in the face of the ‘big’ names. Maybe that was naive.

He has succeeded in making Schteve look ruthless and authoritarian. Great start.
Chris, Kingston upon Thames


…I thought I would write in after the game yesterday, as I notice the mailbox is a bit bare (not uncommon during international week).

It was good to see mailboxers from this morning pick up on Sam’s “I can’t tell Wayne Rooney where to play” line, in what was possibly the most embarrassing interview an England manager has given since Glenn Hoddle went all left field. That is basically your job in a nutshell, Sam. But I don’t think we should stop there. I watched the interview before the game, where Sam looked and sounded incredibly nervous, he was like a rabbit in the headlights. Now you may argue that this is one of the biggest job in football, his first big test, so of course he would be. But let’s not forget this is the man who has claimed for many a year how great he would be if he was given a shot at the top, a chance to prove himself on the big stage, and now he’s got it, it looks like he’s sh**ting himself. Which has already been demonstrated with his refusing to tell his captain what to do, aware that he is that he’s lucky to even be there.

After the game, when pressed on the issue of Rooney’s position, he responded petulantly with “Are we just going to keep talking about this?” Well yes, yes we are Sam. The reason you’re going to be pressed on such issues is that you played Rooney in a position that doesn’t work, that hasn’t worked in the past, and we want to make sure isn’t going to be tried again for the next two years before a World Cup. You wanted the job, if you don’t like scrutiny into your decisions, then perhaps you aren’t in fact cut out for big jobs? This is an attitude he’ll need to change, and I feel stems from his position of only ever managing plucky sides against larger opposition.

At Sunderland, a 1-0 away win is a great result, job done, take the points and get out, no need to investigate further. But for England, we need to see progress, we need to see evidence of a side who could break down a tough defensive unit like France, Germany or Iceland. And I don’t think anyone watching yesterday evening saw that.

So Sam, this is what it means to be given the lead role, now stop fluffing your lines.
Mike (AVFC), London


…Rooney is absolute dogsh*te. His incredible ability over a decade to convince his coaches, the international football fraternity, and sports writers in the media otherwise, is a sociological miracle. Big Sam has now stated he can’t really tell Rooney where to play, seeing as he’s achieved so much in his career; Rooney will decide for himself. This has a bit of the David-Moyes-at-Manchester about it. You’re the sodding gaffer! Tell the wee bastard what his job is!

Of course, relative to the “talent” in the England squad, Rooney is Maradona. But I care little about international football right now. Please can we stop doing these soul-destroying International Breaks three and six games into the nascent season?
Med (Bring back the Premier League immediately), MUFC, Leicester


Rooney does not have brain for midfield; Jose knows
I said this years ago. Wayne Rooney a very good footballer. HOWEVER, he does not have a good footballing brain. What Wayne Rooney was, WAS a World Class instinctive striker. Give him no time and no space and he used to make things happen. He is an impatient, risk taker. Fergie ruined him, or more specifically misused him. His inability to buy midfielders made Rooney HAVE to create, have to be involved further back on the pitch. If you play in front of Fletcher, Eric Djemba Djemba, John ‘shoe horned’ O’Shea you tend to have to get involved in the build-up. Rooney asked for the team to be built around him, he asked for Ozil prior to his Real move. When that didn’t happen Rooney asked for a transfer, several times, as he knew he needed a supporting cast. Fergie refused this request, IMO quite a fair request, when at 22 years old he was clearly destined for big things, and instead bought RVP to play in front of Rooney at 10. This may have seemed like placing Rooney in the 10 role would be ‘building around him’ but it wasn’t. It was never playing to his strengths.

Fergie saw the answer to his midfield issues as Rooney. England, now Gerrard and Lampard have gone, have done the same and Rooney has allowed himself to be pulled deeper and deeper on the pitch. Wayne Rooney is not a midfielder. He has the technique to pick out a full-back from 40yards, this is not the sum total of what a midfielder should be doing. They are there to regain possession, recycle the ball and hold possession, support the attack and to provide a platform for the more skilled players in the squad to do the business. 22-Year-old Wayne Rooney WAS the skilled player. This change in Wayne’s game has hurt Man Utd and England.

I predict by the end of the season Rooney will either be playing as an out-and-out striker for Man Utd, or he won’t be playing. Mourinho has better options in his midfield than United have had in 10 years. Between Pobga, Herrera, Fellaini, Mata, Carrick, Mkhitaryan and Schneiderlin, Manchester United have every Central Midfield role covered by a player who can do it better than Rooney. It will take Mourinho 4-5 months to truly see who he can trust from those players, helped by Europa League kicking off, but once he has a clearer picture I guarantee Rooney will be told in no uncertain terms “up front or on the bench, your choice”.

If there’s one thing Mourinho does best is put round pegs in round holes and bin those who don’t fit his tactical vision. It’ll be interesting to see whether Sam Allardyce has the gravitas to do the same at international level.
Aston Taylor (CFC)


Rooney will always play…and it will hurt us
I think everybody currently frothing at the mouth about Allardyce and Rooney needs a reality check. The fact is, Rooney is the face of the England team both on and off the pitch. He’s the captain, our most decorated player and the main focus of every sponsorship deal and media campaign. If you ask 100 people anywhere in the world with even a passing interest in football to name an England player, I guarantee more than 90 of them will say Wayne Rooney.

Whether any of this is right or wrong is immaterial – if he’s available, he’s going to start every match from now until our inevitable second-round exit at Russia 2018 (it will take a sh*tshow of McClaren proportions for us not to qualify out of this group). And you know what – Rooney is unlikely to drastically affect our qualification either way. He’ll stroll around the pitch pointing and shouting a lot, hit 427 crossfield passes to Kyle Walker, and score a few against the likes of Malta and Lithuania to further pad out his goalscoring stats.

However, the real cost of this will be the lack of opportunities afforded to younger players who are more suited to the way England play when at their best, in particular players like Alli and Barkley. Look at the Germany game earlier this year when Rooney was out injured – we pressed the opposition relentlessly, won the ball back high up the pitch and moved the ball quickly when in possession. That’s the style of play we could be developing, but it will never happen while Rooney is in the team.

By the time we get to Russia, he’ll be two years older, two years slower and will have hoovered up another 20 caps that would have been better used giving other players international experience. He’ll retire with England’s all-time appearance and goal records, and fair play to him for that, but what I’ll take from his career will be that one player should never be allowed to become more important than the team he represents.
BR, NCFC (Won’t somebody please think of the children?)


Dear Mailbox,

The last time I wrote in was after the Uruguay game at the last World Cup. You printed it. It was about our man Wayne.

I couldn’t help but dig it out after last night’s ‘he does what he wants’ farce. (I saved it in a html page, I’m sad like that).

I reckon it still holds up. so I thought I’d just reprise it below because there’s really nothing further to add; it’s all about the money.

Not Buying It
Despite a long awaited goal, the issue with Rooney is that he’s a victim of his own brand. His record in major tournaments hasn’t lived up to what we expect. It’s those expectations that are the problem.

He’s marketed alongside the likes of Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic and Neymar, literally sold to us as one of the great players of our generation. The public naturally buy this rather false image of Rooney. The problem lies in that anyone who understands football will concede he is not on their level, yet the expectation is still implied by such association. It’s not his fault, he clearly does try his best. We have to ignore the gloss that’s applied to his image and accept that Rooney’s best isn’t good enough to compete at the very highest level.
Fred, London

Fred (still not buying it), London
It’s not all about sodding Rooney
Christ almighty! There were 10 other players wearing an England shirt last night weren’t there? I’m just checking because the media circus around Wayne Rooney’s position has hit a level I never thought was possible.

The ‘Rooney question’ is becoming unbearable. I’m a United fan so I have to deal with this not only at international level but also at club level. As soon as the game was over last night the media wanted to analyse every aspect of Wayne’s position on the pitch, where he played, why he played there and then overly examined his influence in said position. The question was the put to Big Sam who laughed it off as an attempt to create yet another story, and you know what, he’s right. This obsession with Rooney has got to stop. It appears to be every game that his position is criticised and I no longer think it’s fair.

I have long held the belief that he’s past it, a large majority of us do. I realise that I’m guilty of highlighting the question myself, I’ve written into this site several times berating Rooney over the past few years for his failings but the media jumping on the anti-Rooney bandwagon has become a tedious exercise. Rooney has now become the scapegoat that is hung out to dry whenever there is a poor United or England performance and I no longer think it’s fair. He’s actually started the season well and it’s refreshing to see. However, that is never reflected in media reports.

There’s several other players in that team who’s position should be scrutinised more than Rooney’s. Harry Kane has been absolutely woeful since the Euros yet continues to start ahead of Vardy and Sturridge. Jordan Henderson is one of the most overrated players I’ve ever seen. The guy contributes absolutely nothing to any game he plays in, yet he continues to be selected in central midfield. People mock Milner for resembling a tin opener, but at least the guy contributes something to the game of football he’s involved in. Central midfield is our problem position, folks.

The glaringly obvious faults within this team are masked because of an obsession with a player who has flattered to deceive throughout the majority of his career. Take the focus off Wayne, it isn’t healthy.
Leon, Basel


Let’s go route one
I’m pretty sure England will qualify from the group as has become custom but it’s going to be a really boring tedious watch. Most teams will stifle us with 10 or 11 men behind the ball and we just don’t have the nous, imagination and quick passing combination ability to do much about it.

So I suggest the following:

Get a big man up front (Carroll). Instead of trying to go through or around just get to the heart of the problem. Consistent balls into the danger are will eventually provide headed chances (which have less chance of being blocked by the mass ranks, or knockdowns which can cause havoc.

Get people who can feed the big man. Accurate crossers out wide and even in the middle of the park.

Dribblers (don’t laugh but someone like Zaha). Create space for crosses, cutbacks or shots. Draw fouls and penalties.

Get rid of a DM. Not really needed for such a game. Another creative player in the middle would be much more useful.

Partner the big man with a striker who can create his own chances. Much as I love Kane, he’s not really the type (Cruyff turn against Germany aside). Much as I don’t like Sturridge, he is the type who can create his own space in a crowded box.

“But…but…it’s not how football should be played”, “Bla bla bla dark ages”, “bla bla bla control, bla bla possession”. Ball and Ox to all that, it’s a legitimate tactic which does away with the need to pass the ball around aimlessly in front of a wall of defenders and it might even keep me awake watching England. If you’re not convinced…Peter Crouch has 22 England goals to his name.
Oli (crap feet for a medium sized man), Thailand


Why bother with England?
Football is supposed to be an entertainment. Watching football is a choice we make in order to use up our precious free time.

I love club football, I love reading about it, I love watching it, I love the transfer window, I love live games, I love the Premier League, the Champions League and even the lesser cups. My team who were highly successful a decade ago is only moderately successfully these days but even when they have a bad season I get some enjoyment from it.

However the England senior team I find totally unenjoyable. I honestly struggle to think of any game since Sven’s era that I have actually enjoyed. Friendlies are completely pointless and qualifiers are predictable and unrewarding. And that’s even before we get to tournaments.

For these reasons this weekend I made the decision to stop watching any England senior International football until the World Cup. After reading the reports on the Slovakia game I feel completely vindicated. I am sure your mailbox will be full of the same old stories about players under performing, incorrect tactical choices, fundamental issues with English football or just general negativity.

Am I blaming the FA, Big Sam or the players for this state of affairs? No, it is what it is. When I look at this objectively I simply find that I do not get any satisfaction from England Internationals. Even in tournaments I have realized that I start enjoying the event more once England are out. Does this make me unpatriotic? Maybe, however I will patriotically support the England cricket or rugby team and spent the summer enjoying supporting team GB.

If you really cannot get through the international breaks without live football I would advise to watch the highly competitive South American World Cup qualifiers where you have genuinely world-class players, drama, passion and uncertainly helped by climatic differences (although admittedly at unsociable hours). At the other end of the scale you could go and support your local lower or non-league team.

We all have choices in life. I ask your readers, was your choice to commit two hours last night to watch that game a good choice? If the answer is no then I would urge them to really question themselves before committing to watching another England game.
Paul, London


Well done Newcastle on a brilliant window
Having read the article on teams that have done the best business, I would like to congratulate Rafa for the work he has done at NUFC- not only has he shifted significant wages off the books, but he also got rid of players for BIG sums who didn’t wish to stay. Getting 30 mill for Sissoko and 25 mill for Wijni is/was ridiculously good, even 7.5 mill for Janmaat is great, offsetting the money we spent for players that are eager to play for the team.

Colo and Taylor finally leaving (all the best!) means that we can look towards the future, and getting rid of the likes of Riviere, Thauvin on loan means we have a squad on and off the field that all want to fight for the cause. Also happy to see Bigirimana out on loan, just don’t think he’s very good.

I have been impressed with the signings made too – not necessarily all stellar but a large chunk have the experience needed for the Championship (Hanley, Gayle, Diame, Ritchie, Murphy, Hayden) which I think shows Benitez’ intelligence. He’s signed a couple of players without experience of English football (Gamez, Lazaar) BUT the likes of Hanley and Diame will bring the fight and togetherness needed to win the tough games. Atsu will be an interesting one, but hard to say given the lack of game time over the last few years… Yedlin I think will do just fine.

Personally, I would also add that in Gayle we have signed a player fit for purpose – score goals in this league – he was never good enough for the Prem.

Was a little disappointed to see Armstrong out on loan again, especially to another team in the Championship, and sad to see Krul and De Jong out on loan too, but hopefully they will both excel in their homeland and will return stronger for it.

Tough few games ahead that should show whether this squad can mount a serious challenge (Derby(A), QPR(A), Wolves(H))! Bring on The Rams!
Jon (Anyone else wish Big Sam was in a proper tracksuit on the sidelines, would certainly make games more amusing!), NUFC, Guangzhou


Johnny right on ref rage
Full marks to JN for his latest missive on the topic of both referees and live music (points deducted for attempting any sort of justification for the Grateful Dead).

I’m fed up of hearing pundits and commentators trying to whip up an artificial fury over incidents so that they can have their childish rant about how bad the game is when it isn’t being run to their own personal approval. Last night’s commentary was tediously filled with “well if you apply the letter of the law Skrtel should have had a second yellow for that” as though the ref has no discretion in deciding what is and isn’t worthy of a card and is under some duty to reduce both sides to four players before half time.

See also “well if he doesn’t give a penalty for that then he has to think it’s a dive and should have sent him off” and “there’s no way that the officials could have seen that they got that right so they should have given the incorrect decision that I’ve spent the last five minutes fuming about until you showed me that slow motion replay proving that I’m wrong”.
Monkey Steve


Stop picking on Everton and Martinez
From the ladder:

‘It is difficult to imagine a worse manager for Stones’ development than Roberto Martinez.’

Is it? Seems to me that the manager that installed him straight into the first team as centre-back at 19, played him 95 times, and never said a bad word about him in public as Stones made several high profile errors which contributed to costing Martinez his job was probably about as good as any young defender could expect.

From a £3m former Barnsley right-back sitting in our reserves to a 10 cap England international in his proper position and a £47.5m player in three years. What terrible development he has suffered.

I’d earlier assumed the line from the ratings that his ‘anticipation has clearly improved under Pep Guardiola’ was just a terrible wind up, but now I do wonder.

Everyone likes to go out of their way to take shots at Martinez, but he did plenty of good for Everton, our players at all age levels and certainly doesn’t deserve this kind of ill-informed sniping from Luke Shaw365, which sadly seems to be an easy ‘go to’ for your writers whenever you can crowbar it into an article about Everton, Stones, Barkley, Koeman, or anyone else.


Kevin Nolan? Is this a joke?
I was patiently making my way through the famous 2018 World Cup ladder. I made it all the way to 50… find Kevin Nolan..?

A quick search shows he’s playing for Leyton Orient now. Storey…an explanation?
Royston (this was clearly done to inspire some mails…dammit!) Queen
Mutiny afoot
If Fat Sam can’t tell Rooney where to play what right does Daniel Storey to drop PNev from ladder contention?

Storey/Nolan out.
Peter Lamb

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