Fabio Capello issues hint over Wayne Rooney Euro 2012 fate
England coach Fabio Capello has dropped a clear hint that Wayne Rooney will be going to next summer's European Championship.
Capello has not spoken about Rooney since the Manchester United striker was handed a three-match ban by UEFA for his red card in Montenegro earlier this month.
Although it is still to be decided whether the Football Association will launch an appeal against the suspension, as it presently stands, Rooney will be ruled out of the entire group stage of the competition in Poland and Ukraine.
The widespread view amongst professionals is that Rooney should go, even though, as Sir Alex Ferguson pointedly remarked on Monday, England may not even qualify for the knockout stages, which would render the 25-year-old a non-playing member of Capello's squad.
But, speaking at a Club Wembley breakfast hosted at Wembley yesterday, Capello indicated Rooney would be part of his plans as part of an observation about the balance of younger players and older ones in his squad.
"The young players are really good and ready to play with the seniors, and the experience of the seniors is really important," said Capello.
"During the games we need some leaders, people that know something.
"Jack Wilshere is incredible because he is so young. We also need the experience of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Scott Parker.
"You need this kind of player, plus Rooney, I hope."
Ferdinand might also be pleased to receive a name check after he was left out of the squad for the final Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro.
But Rooney, more than any other player, has the ability to lift England onto the next level and hit the goal trail last night with two penalties in United's Champions League defeat of Otelul Galati, which took his tally for the season onto 11.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were two of Rooney's team-mates last night, part of a group of English youngsters who have emerged over the past few months to give fresh hope for the future.
Capello does not want to pile too much expectation on their shoulders just yet.
However, he does believe the overall balance of his squad is far better than when he took charge almost four years ago.
"I am happy with my players," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in them.
"There are not many young players in the world who are better than the English ones.
"But you need to wait until the end of the season to understand if they are at the top and ready to play with the seniors.
"We had a gap between the oldest and the young. Now, with people like Wilshere, Jones, (Danny) Welbeck, (Daniel) Sturridge - it's really interesting.
"It will be a really good team for the next Euros."
However, the key to England's chances of success will be in the preparation.
Prior to the World Cup in South Africa, Capello took his players to a training camp in Austria for 10 days.
England then had another 10-day period together in South Africa before their opening game.
Capello's instinct is to halve that time next summer, when it has been suggested England will be based in a city centre hotel in Krakow, rather than a remote location like their Rustenburg HQ last year.
"The players arrived at the World Cup really tired," said Capello.
"In the friendly games before we went to South Africa, we won but did not play well, like the games we played to qualify.
"The players were not so fast, not so good. We need to change something at the end of the season to prepare for the Euros.
"I will stay with the players 10 days before the Euros start."
There is a three-week gap between the Champions League final in Munich on May 19 and the opening game of the European Championship on June 8, almost four from the final game of the Premier League season on May 13.
And it is that time Capello views as the most important given what he expects the bulk of his squad to be going through over the next few months.
"It's really important the players relax after the season because the season here in England is really strong," he said.
"This year will be stronger than last because there will be a competition between five or six teams to qualify for the Champions League.
"Also, I hope some teams all play in the Champions League final and the other UEFA competition.
"But if we arrive fresh and fit we will be competitive."
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