Rooney early England favourite

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The Independent Football

Cristiano Ronaldo may be Fifa's world player of the year for 2008 but Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney leads the way among England fans.

The annual poll for England's player of the year concludes at the end of the month and the early voting suggests Rooney's main rival will be Aston Villa's Gareth Barry.

Along with David James, Barry was the only player to be involved in all 10 matches of Fabio Capello's first year in charge and many supporters have acknowledged his impressive contribution.

However, five goals in eight appearances, all of them coming in England's perfect start to World Cup qualifying, appear to be giving Rooney the edge.

The striker was on target against Kazakhstan and Belarus, as well as the key win over Croatia in Zagreb, suggesting he will end up top of the table among the 35 players that Capello called on.

However, Theo Walcott, who scored a famous hat-trick against the Croats is bound to have his backers too.

It does seem certain there will be a new winner this time around and possibly the first time a midfielder does not collect the prize after previous successes of David Beckham, Frank Lampard (twice), Owen Hargreaves and Steven Gerrard last season.

Fans have until midnight on 31 January to register their vote on the FA's official website, www.thefa.com .



One lucky supporter who plumped for the winner will then be chosen at random to receive two hospitality tickets for England's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley on April 1 courtesy of team sponsors Nationwide.

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