Rooney losing his fitness fight to face Spain

Striker out of West Ham game with only small chance of substitute role for England
Click to follow

Wayne Rooney's chances of playing a part in England's friendly against Spain on Wednesday appeared to be fading last night when Sir Alex Ferguson said that the striker was "not even a consideration" to play in tomorrow's league game against West Ham. Fabio Capello had pencilled in Rooney as an outside bet for the squad but the striker is still some way from match fitness.

Ferguson said yesterday that Rooney would only be fit enough to play as a substitute for Capello in the game against the European champions in Seville and questioned whether that would be beneficial to player or manager. Rooney has been back in training this week for the first time since picking up a hamstring problem on 14 January.

Ferguson added that Rooney was not ready to play against West Ham. "I hope to speak to him [Capello] to explain the situation. He can then have a dialogue with the England physio and our physio about whether it is worth taking him [Rooney] to Seville. I've no strong issues about that.

"Whether he is able to play in a game at this moment in time or as a sub is exactly the same position as I'm in. Whether it is worth taking him over to Seville to use him as a sub is up to Fabio. I've no strong objections to that. He [Rooney] is not ready to start the game [against West Ham], he's not even a consideration."

Capello had considered taking Rooney despite his lack of playing time simply because he has so few first-string strikers available. Jermain Defoe, Theo Walcott and Michael Owen, previously in line for a recall, are all injured. Capello has Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Darren Bent fit.

Carlton Cole also has a chance of his first call-up to the England squad and will have an opportunity to impress Capello tomorrow when the England manager plans to watch West Ham play Manchester United at Upton Park. Capello's assistant, Franco Baldini, will watch Middlesbrough's trip to Manchester City today and the north London derby at White Hart Lane tomorrow

Capello has an interesting decision to make at right-back when he selects his 23-man squad tonight. Portsmouth's Glen Johnson, selected for the last two squads, is virtually assured of a place but Capello may choose between Gary Neville and Wes Brown for the second place. Neville has not played for England since the last Spain friendly two years ago today. Lately he has kept his place in the United team ahead of Brown, who has made just two substitute appearances after coming back from a three-month lay-off.

Capello picked Micah Richards for the first time in his previous squad, to face Germany in November, but this time the Manchester City defender has been selected in the Under-21s, who play Ecuador in Malaga on Tuesday. Also in the Under-21s are James Milner, Tom Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon, the omission of the latter further evidence that David Beckham will be in the squad and given a chance to equal Bobby Moore's outfield record of 108 caps.

Aston Villa's Ashley Young and Agbonlahor, both picked in the squad to face Germany, are also possibilities to be named in Capello's squad tonight. Steven Gerrard is out and Owen Hargreaves and Joe Cole are the two long-term injured. Capello has indicated that, despite those missing, he will not pick an experimental side on Wednesday.

Capello has enthused about Spain's style of play and described them yesterday as "perfect opposition". "It's very important because it is a different style of play," he said. "I'm very interested in this game because Spain play fantastic football, very quick. But we are strong and I think England will be strong in Spain. I am very confident in my team."

Comments