As Ashley Cole stepped off the team coach on Sunday having earlier participated in England’s worst ever World Cup defeat, he laughed and joked casually with other members of the squad. This confirmed two things:
1. He really is thick as two short planks.
2. Our beloved England team have reached the end of an era.
The best suggestion I heard following the debacle we were subjected for on Sunday was that Premier League players should be banned from playing at international level. Instead, Championship players would get a chance to grace the world stage. And it makes sense. Not only would they display more passion, they’d be free of the traps bestowed upon our highest-paid stars. Traps of excessive fame and fortune which clearly give them a distorted view of their own footballing ability.
One thing has become abundantly clear over the last fortnight; not a single player in that England squad can ever be described as ‘world class’ ever again.
Take Wayne Rooney, who has unknowingly been poked at with the pointy end of my Tweets and Facebook status updates since the tournament began. He was hailed our talisman and the one player who would finally ignite the ability our team has to bring the World Cup home. An ability which has laid dormant since 1966.
In reality, he cast a lone, despondent shadow across every inch of pitch he covered. Which amounted to quite a lot, if truth be told. He simply kept running the wrong way; back into the congested midfield only to either a) foul someone, b) collide with Gerrard who was doing the exact same thing or c) give the ball away to the opposition.
The rate at which he did the latter was simply staggering.
This is a player who clearly had a big say in which of his team mates made it to South Africa. Walcott didn’t deserve to go but Rooney’s all too obvious reactions to every misplaced cross only served to help Capello make what must have been a difficult decision. I doubt it did Theo’s confidence much good, either.
By comparison, Rooney has played all four of England’s games at a tenth of Walcott’s effort during the qualifying campaign. The young lad who was unfairly taken to the last World Cup must be seething.
I don’t believe it’s the manager’s fault, regardless of some questionable substitutions and an insistence on playing a formation which didn’t lend itself to the players available. He simply seems to be saddled with the same guilt trip this country’s media lavishes on every England manager – whatever you do, don’t drop Wayne.
If we can hope for anything after this mess, its that Capello keeps the job he’s more than capable of fulfilling and becomes the one manager who shuns popular opinion and ditches the divine right. Rooney should play no more than a bit part until he proves he actually wants the caps which have come so easily to him thus far.