Mails: Rooney could replace Henderson

Matt Stead

Your friend and ours Jeremy Aves is our latest Mailbox guest. He hates the Anfield Rap. Read that, then send your mails to


There is room for Rooney
I am hoping that a bit of advice (from Xavi) about Rooney considering a drop towards his own goal could see him evolve as a player in his later years.

Clearly an experienced international – Wayne Rooney perhaps needs to fill one of the positions that wasn´t so good against Duetchland i.e. Jordan Henderson´s.

By keeping him in the 13 outfield players (plus 3 subs) yet in a more withdrawn position, more or less alongside Dier, everyone can win.

This type of tactical flexibility shouldn´t be too hard to come by and I can only see benefits.

Italy are my favourites in France 2016, but a team so full of quality as France´s in 2006 doesn´t exist today.

The closest to that would seem to be Duetchland who have 6 or 7 fine, fine players.
I won´t mind if England lose (a la Manaus) as long as they show the same kind of verve in the opposition´s half as they did in Berlin. The possession, intelligence and passing has come a long way since the dark days of 2006, 2008, 2010. All we need now is Rafa to win the World Cup (at home) in 2018. Come on England… Entertain us !!
Peter (living in Spain , big England fan).


He’s not that bad
Why do so many people think taking Rooney to France would be a disaster? We play one good game and it becomes all about Wayne again. It’s almost a mirror image of the United fans’ ranting.

The truth is, we are seeing a new generation of players coming through who, all going well, will allow us to enjoy watching England again, and Roy played to their strengths against Germany. Let’s get them on the plane.

Still, Rooney knows where the net is and has been England’s best player in the last few games before injury. Fair enough, if Vardy, Kane and Sturridge are better options (with which I am inclined to agree), Rooney should probably be left behind, but he’s not been holding England back. He just hasn’t been good enough to carry the squad by himself. We should be getting excited by how much talent is starting to emerge in various positions, rather than simplifying our improvement to the absence of one player.


More Wayne defending
Thought I’d try and add some balance to the Rooney debate and take a deeper look at some of the arguments against his inclusion.

Argument 1 – He shouldn’t be picked on form:
Before his injury, he had scored 7 goals and made 3 assists in his last 9 games. (In their last 9 club games, Vardy has 4 goals and 3 assists, Kane 6 goals and 0 assists & Welbeck has 4 goals and 0 assists).

For England, he has 11 goals in his 13 games as England captain including being top scorer in qualifying. (Vardy has 1 in 5, Kane 4 in 9, Welbeck 6 in 8).

Argument 2 – He stifles the way England play
Since his England debut, England have won less (66.7% to 70%) and scored less (2.17 to 2.35) with Rooney in the side than without. There is definitely some merit to this argument particularly on Saturday’s showing. However, he was pretty key in England’s perfect qualifying.

Argument 3 – He takes a long time to recover from injuries.
Yes, he does. Not much to argue here. He’s back April 3rd and has 9-11 games left for Man Utd plus warm up games for England. Providing he doesn’t get injured again, his fitness shouldn’t be a problem.

Argument 4 – His tournament record is dire
Again, yes it is. However, part of this can be explained due to fitness.
2004 – obviously the only time he has shone – 4 goals
2006 – 0 goals and a red card reads for a pretty poor tournament. However, he came in injured and didn’t play a full game until the knockout stages.
2008 – didn’t qualify
2010 – Awful, but again there were concerns about his fitness. Clearly played with an ankle injury during the closing stages of the premier league season and form suffered.
2012 – Got himself banned for the first 2 games which meant he wasn’t involved in a lot of the warm up games. Looked unfit as a result. 1 goal.
2014 – Came in fully fit and while he didn’t set the world alight, scored one and assisted one (the only goals England managed).

Conclusion: It all boils down to fitness. Realistically he will go and start but whether he will be any good or not depends on whether he can get and keep himself 100% fit.
Yudi, MUFC (obviously this wasn’t completely balanced), Wales


Best 23 or beat team of 23?
Excellent article by John Nicholson. Rooney is no better a player (these days) than Kane or Vardy. However, I think the major impact of not having Rooney and having approximately the team that played against Germany is there is no player who is such a big name that the team has to be build around them.

This is has been a major problem with England in the past. The media earmarks a “once in a generation player”, be it Rooney or Gerrard or Wilshire and then the manager “builds” the team around them. Yup, in a game that is perhaps more about teamwork than any other sport, England managers of the past seem to think that building a team around one player rather than the other way round is the way to go. Sure, if you have a Ronaldo or a Messi (or Maradona, Pele’ etc you get the drift), it might work. But the most successful teams recently have been those who have a proper well drilled system to play and then choosing players accordingly like Spain or Germany.

Hodgson needs to think which system best suits England and select players accordingly. This might mean leaving a few players who might be technically better and using those who fit the team dynamics. For example, if a team wants to play long ball, Allardyce type of system you keep Crouch as your striker, not Sturridge even if technically he is better. So the question is, does Hodgson even have such a system in mind? And more importantly does he have the balls to leave some big names behind? Because England don’t need their best 23 players on the plane for a good tournament, they need the best team of 23 players. And nothing will really change for England till Hodgson (or any future manager for that matter) realizes that.
Apoorv (MUFC, Dreaming PSG swap Rooney for Zlatan),


Matt, EFC, Honduras is right to mention Spain’s jettisoning of Raúl as a precedent for the Rooney situation, but he has a few of the details wrong. Aragones did go into the 2006 World Cup committed to a front two of Villa and Torres, but Raúl was in the squad (and captain). He didn’t start the tournament, but by the Round of 16 game against France, had replaced Luis Garcia as the number 10 in Aragones’ adventurous 4-3-1-2 system.

He was dumped after the shock defeat to Northern Ireland in Euro 2008 qualifying that autumn. Although Spain qualified without him, there were still many assuming that he would be brought back for the tournament, especially as there seemed to be no real alternative. How clear was it that by that stage Aragones wanted anyone but Raúl? First, he tried to call up 17-year-old Bojan, and when Bojan turned down the chance, he called up Sergio Garcia, who had never played for the national team before and never did again. Raúl at that stage was clearly still a better player than Bojan or Garcia, but Aragones obviously didn’t want him sitting on the bench causing tension.

Of course, there was a political dimension to it that doesn’t apply to the British case. Although Raúl’s successor as Spanish captain was fellow Madrileño Iker Casillas, Casillas is a consensual rather than a divisive figure – Raúl wasn’t just associated with past failures.

On the other hand, if England really didn’t take Rooney to France, they could argue it was on purely footballing grounds – Kane and Vardy have had vastly better seasons, Sturridge is more effective (when fit) and Welbeck more useful for the team.
Mark, CPFC, London


Who starts on the right?
When it comes to England’s Euro 2016 staring front line, we can assume that Welbeck will be in there somewhere because as F365 have stated repeatedly, he makes things happen for England. If Roy has any balls, Kane will lead the line.
But who should play on the right?

The mailbox is pretty unanimous in feeling that Walcott is not the player he should have been by now. Adam Llallana isn’t pulling up trees but does offer some defensive discipline by running around a lot. There are suggestions that Roy’s desperation to shoehorn Wayne into his team will see England’s Captain Fantastic line up on the wing. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn’t yet developed the way we’d hoped he would, Sterling might well still be injured and Roy clearly doesn’t share the national crush on Vardy (and neither do I – useful bench option, nothing more).

The alternaties? Aaron Lennon has rediscovered some form at Everton – but I’d suggest that with Lennon with Walker or Clyne would be too much of an attack-minded right side that would get unpicked against a better team.
Michail Antonio at West Ham is untried at this level so it’s probably too late for him. Which leaves us with one of the above.

If fit, Sterling will almost certainly start. If not, the need for a safety-first approach will see Llallana start there, in my opinion.

What does the Mailbox reckon?
Alex, Leeds


Embrace the underdog tag
It has taken one good performance to suck the elitism out of the mailbox. There were suggestions that selecting players from Leicester City might be beneath the national team but England are the underdogs at the Euros, and they should play as such.

International teams, especially traditional European power houses, tend to control possession. They are better at passing, keeping the ball and ticking it forward than England. What England have to counter them is pace and directness.

England has tried to beat the giants at their own game by playing a passing game but they have failed. Leicester City is precisely the model England should look to emulate. Direct, quick and a hard press are England’s best chance of winning the Euros.

However, England cannot afford to leave itself so vulnerable at the back, as Leicester City have this season. International games are often decided by a margin of one goal. This means England needs to play a variation of the 4-3-3, that turns into a 3-4-3 or a 5-2-3 depending on the situation.

You have Joe Hart in goal and Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling in defence. John Stones has the potential to be the best center back in the country but his inexperience as a liability at this stage. There is no need to look to play the ball out of defence or dribble your way upfield. No nonsense defending at the back. Hoof everything upfield if need be.

Flanked by two full backs with pace, who effectively play as wing backs whether it is Clyne/Walker or Rose/Bertrand. The width comes from the full backs. All full back options available to England are defensively susceptible but they have pace to burn and can be devastating on the overlap.

To make up for bombarding full backs, Eric Dier can drop in as the third center back. Eric Dier is the best option available for England for the way they want to play. A defensive midfielder shutting the back door.

The most contentious decision is who will partner Dier in the mid-field? As a lifelong Manchester United fan, for me it has to be Michael Carrick. Carrick does not have the legs to be a true defensive midfield but he has the game intelligence to block opponent movements and if protected by Dier, he can be allowed to dictate the tempo of the play. If we are to play three pacy forwards, Carrick’s ability to find them with cross field balls will be invaluable. If Rooney is not in the team then England can afford to carry one passenger based on the passing options he brings to the table aka the Pirlo role.

If England do not wish to spring passes forward and instead chooses to quickly turn defence into attack with quick transitions then Drinkwater is our best option. A fully fit Wilshiere might provide us with the best of both worlds but for now a mid field of Drinkwater and Dier is more functional than the other options. Henderson simply does not provide enough in any department to be a starter.

Dele Alli has done enough to be the attacking mid-fielder in the team. Barkley can take his place on the bench.

Now comes the exciting part. Vardy proved what a brilliant option he can be from the bench but I would start him with Kane and Welbeck. Three forwards looking to directly run on to the defenders, Kane and Welbeck can flank Vardy. Welbeck gives more protection to the full back so he can play on the left, allowing Rose more freedom. Kane can come in from the right in a similar role that Messi plays for Barcelona, allowing him the freedom to roam. This will be Dier’s side of the mid field so it will be his job to keep the opponent’s left in check.

I think such a side with pace and directness gives England the best option to win the Euros. It is not exactly Greece 2004 but it plays to the strengths of England without reeking of any notions of how football should be played the right way.

All England needs to do is defend their goal, pass it forwards and score at the other end. The team can start from a 4-3-3 but move to 3 at the back as full backs attack. The mid-field can tuck in and the wide forwards can roam to ensure the flanks are not exposed. The key is to make the field of play as narrow as possible when England does not have the ball and as wide as possible when England has the ball.

Vardy can be replaced with Walcott or Sterling starting with Kane moving in the middle based on fitness and form. All of Walcott, Sterling and Vardy offer incredible options from the bench as well.

Rooney has to be taken to the tournament but it has to be a role on the bench. Barring injuries, I do not see Rooney shoehorning into the first team.

England needs to drop its tiki-taka ambitions, there are more than one way of playing football. Go back to the basics and give itself the best chance to win. Do not pick names but pick a team that works together.

There is no shame in doing what Leicester City is doing, if anything it gives England the perfect road map to glory.
– Shehzad Ghias, mufc, karachi


More England
I’m not quite sure whereabouts we are in the enjoyment/cynical backlash cycle, so I’ll keep it to this.

*It was only a friendly, but in the run-up to a tournament these games take on an importance when players are given the chance to show they deserve to play in the summer. Regardless of the ratings given by the various papers, it’s fair to say a lot of players passed their auditions on Saturday.

*The mailbox URL for 16 February was This was highlighting a mail responding to Winty’s piece Class is Permanent, about Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge, but also mentioning Wayne Rooney re-claiming his “proper place”.

However, as unpleasant a person as Jamie Vardy has been in the past, what he and Harry Kane bring to the England team is a seemingly limitless source of energy, as well as a goalscoring touch. Rooney hasn’t offered that combination for about a decade, so it’s now up to him to prove he’s better than any of these upstarts.

*About six months before the last World Cup, Roy Hodgson was asked the “perfect” question: if he was given £10, who would he bet on to win the World Cup? It was a perfect question because every answer was a story. Back England and he’s a deluded fool, subjected to headlines where it’s claimed he reckons England are the best team in the world; stick the money on anyone else and he’s a deluded fool, subjected to stories questioning his passion and suggesting he should be replaced by someone with more belief.

Similarly, the current striker situation seems to put Hodgson in a lose-lose situation: pick Rooney in a team that then doesn’t win, and he’s a stick in the mud, too reliant on players past their prime; leave Rooney on the bench for a game England fail to win, and, well, you can guess what line the papers will go with.

*That said, I would play Rooney as a centre-back if Robin van Persie plays any part. Rooney occupying the Dutchman’s zone would be an effective way of keeping him off the scoresheet – just ask Manchester United fans.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven


The Leicester rise
This is something that I think every single football fan should watch. The rise of Leicester City summarized perfectly. The things that the pundits said at various times of the season and every single game. Kudos to NBC Sports for uploading this. Hope there is an end of the season one whether Leicester win the title or not.



Klopp that
You know Gregory Whitehead, LFC, saying that England performance came down to Spurs and Liverpool players is like me saying Bill Gates and I have amassed a wonderful combined fortune.

Credit to Nathaniel Clyne, he turned a decent performance. But to suggest Henderson and Lallana were anything more than passengers in the car motored by the Spurs contingent and Vardy is a bit disingenuous.

It’s Poch you should be thanking for England. Not Poch and Klopp.
Michael K, New York


Gregory Whitehead, LFC – we all like to take credit when our team has contributed to an England win but a Liverpool fan claiming that the Liverpool players were equally to thank as Tottenham’s the other night is incredibly rich.

Henderson, Llallana and Clyne started. Most match reports say Clyne was the best of the 3, and he was average until England got back into the game. Henderson and Llallana did nothing whatsoever.

Klopp’s pressing style may have had some influence in the way the team played but his players certainly did not.
Alex (Insert ‘Deluded Liverpool Fans’ jibe from the Man United fan here), Leeds


Love for Edwin
I do love a list. I also love a topical 10, list’s and topical 11’s are great in my book, more of them please. Today’s on Dutchmen in English football is a corker and has really got myself and an Arsenal supporting friend arguing (as all good topical lists should). Reading this list a I had a tremor of rage, its customary at this point to say spat out my coffee isn’t it? Well I didn’t because I have heartburn and coffee really wouldn’t be good for that right now. Anyway what caused my rage you ask? Well, maybe you didn’t ask but I’ll bloody well tell you anyway. Edwin Van Der Saar at sixth that’s what!!!! SIXTH!!!!!!

Anyway the rage did subside and after being overly cruel to my Arsenal supporting friend about Messr’s Bergstamp and that speedy git who wasn’t there for long I got to thinking. Was Van Der Saar as good as Big Pete? (Schmeichel not Cech, although if I was discussing best ever premier league keeper he’d be firmly in the mix).

I ask this because whilst Pete was a force of nature, athletic beyond belief and quite frankly bloody terrifying (I once was him beat up two Galatasary fans who were trying to set fire to the Old Trafford pitch) Van Der Saar was the exact opposite. Where Pete would violently throw, Edwin would gracefully kick. Where Pete would yell. Edwin would organise with simple commands. Where Pete would burst across the net to make a save Edwin would anticipate the flight of the ball and begin his movement early thus negating the need for a dramatic dive.

I must admit I’m playing devils advocate here because whilst I see Schmeichel’s style as the most eye catching of a goal keeper I’ve ever seen I do genuinely believe he was the best. However think with his very very different style Edwin Van Der Saar deserves a similar kind of recognition amongst United and English football fans. So I am just wondering peoples (probably mostly United fans) views on this.
Rob, Guangzhou.


Confessions of a Mailboxer
Your recent list of failed mid-season managers involving everyone’s favourite disgruntled racist Ron Atkinson stirred up a sense of guilt in me that I have now decided I must tell the world of a tale from my university days that I am both ashamed and yet immensely proud of.

It was 2004, and I was a starry eyed student gracing Sheffield University, and only a few months after Mr Atkinson’s infamous remarks on Marcel Desailly. A friend of ours had ways of getting his hands on various footballer’s mobile phone numbers that I won’t go into, but suffice to say we had a great deal of fun with these. (Highlights include John Barnes threatening to call the police on me for rapping the entirety of his World in Motion cameo at him and Jose Antonio Reyes insulting my mother!)

Anyway, we were a good few pints into a drinking session when word arrived that we had managed to get Big Ron’s number. This was met with absolute glee by all of us and I decided to step up to the plate and make the call. These calls were by and large completely unplanned and totally off the cuff so tended to go a bit awry when the drunken thought process took over and I expected no different this time. The only decision I had made was to take the persona of one Martin Jol, then Spurs manager, using a crude Anglo-Dutch accent. (Think Goldmember/Scchhteeeve McClaren or a sozzled Sean Connery)

The call began with that weird foreign ring tone which raised a grin, picturing Ron sunning himself with all his crazy jewellery on, crisping up on a tropical beach. He answered and confirmed it was the big man himself. I introduced myself as Martin Jol, expecting him to laugh me off the phone given my terrible accent. To my surprise he was delighted to hear from me and after the initial exchange I was forced to think on my feet and continue the conversation.

“I know you’ve made some mistakes recently Ron, but I know you are a good football man and still have a lot to offer. So if you would like, it would be great if you could come down to White Hart Lane for a chat and we can have a look at maybe a youth development role?” I said quizzically in an increasingly farcical Dutch drawl.

Again, I was utterly knocked sideways by his response… “Really Martin? This means a lot to me. You won’t regret this I promise. Everyone has written me off and I can’t thank you enough for the faith you have in me.”

Frankly I didn’t know what to do. This was not supposed to happen. He was supposed to rumble me as a prankster early on and I would call him a puerile name and hang up.

I paused, before offering him a timeslot of 11am the following Monday (this was a Thursday if memory serves me correctly) to “pop in for an informal chat”. My friends now in pieces at how this was playing out.

Not only did he accept this, but promised to “fly home tomorrow” especially for the event. So not only was he turning up for a non-existent role, but he was cutting short his holiday and thus his Day-Glo tan for the occasion.

My one regret is that as skint students we were not able to afford the trip to London to act as Arsene Wenger style voyeurs for this momentous humiliation. I can only hope there was a large posse of Spurs first teamers stood bemused while Ron pleads with the staff on reception to allow him to see Martin Jol, whom had called him about this interview only days previously. Or even better, if Martin himself had to come down and speak to Ron personally to assure him this had never happened.

I hope this brightens your back to work Tuesday. It is one of my proudest achievements in life…
Ian Hughes, Liverpool (You’ve got to hold and give, but do it at the right time)


(Ed – Remember to read the latest Mailbox guest. It’s Jeremy Aves on why the Anfield Rap is the single worst recorded single in history.)