Rooney ordered to put England before Everton

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The man with the steel-rimmed glasses finally revealed an iron streak of own yesterday, calling time on David Seaman's long England career and flexing his rights over Wayne Rooney's brief one.

The man with the steel-rimmed glasses finally revealed an iron streak of own yesterday, calling time on David Seaman's long England career and flexing his rights over Wayne Rooney's brief one.

On Sunday evening David Moyes, the Everton manager, announced that Rooney had a medial ligament injury in his knee and would not be available for England's summer programme. Yesterday Eriksson, having noted Rooney completed 90 minutes for Everton, said he would see for himself.

Rooney, who had a scan yesterday, will be summoned to the team's Hertfordshire base on Sunday. There he will be checked by the England doctor Leif Sward, a Swede unconnected with any Premiership club. A decision will then be made on whether he is fit to travel to South Africa for the 22 May friendly.

If not, Rooney still might be considered for the build-up to the 11 June European Championship qualifier against Slovakia in Middlesbrough, which includes a warm-up against Serbia & Montenegro at Leicester on 3 June.

"It's common sense to let the doctors decide," said the England manager. "We have the right, why not? You can see something on the scan but it's a question of when he will be fit."

Eriksson has accepted the loss of seven other players on faith. They include Manchester United's Wes Brown, Nicky Butt, and Gary Neville and Arsenal's Sol Campbell and Francis Jeffers. The others are Richard Wright (Everton) and Jonathan Woodgate (Newcastle).

"With these players it is quite different," said Eriksson. "Most have not been playing. It is different when a player has played 90 minutes."

With three of the absentees being centre-halves, Eriksson has recalled Matthew Upson and retained John Terry, who resumed training after injury yesterday. One of them can expect to make a debut in Durban. Ashley Cole returns after injury while James Beattie, axed after his 45 minutes against Australia in February, Trevor Sinclair, Phil Neville and Ian Walker are also recalled. Danny Mills was picked, admitted Eriksson, on past performance but his Leeds team-mate Alan Smith was omitted "on form, not temperament". Joe Cole also missed out although, like the rest of the Under-21s, he will be on stand-by.

Cole's West Ham form over the season has been better than Sinclair's but, having last been capped in September, the latter finally recovered his game during the club's unsuccessful late rally. Neville, who has not been in the squad for more than a year, is rewarded for a good season as is Walker who last featured, as a late-call-up, in November 2001.

Leicester have been relegated and promoted since then but Sinclair, Cole, David James, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe were warned not to read too much into his inclusion. Eriksson said playing in the Nationwide was no bar to playing international football but added: "It will be more difficult for them to keep up their standard outside the Premiership."

James, having finally usurped Seaman, is now certain to move lest he be overtaken by Paul Robinson or, when fit, Chris Kirkland. "The big talents," noted Eriksson of these younger goalkeepers.

Unlike Alan Shearer and Tony Adams, those other stalwarts of the 90s, Seaman had fiercely resisted international retirement despite being 40 in September. Yet a career which began in Saudi Arabia in 1988 now seems over. Forewarned by Eriksson on Saturday, he heard confirmation while playing golf in Hertfordshire. "I told him I was sticking with [James] because I did not know his situation next season," said Eriksson. "He was disappointed but said: 'It had to happen sometime'. The door is not shut for him. He may be picked again if he is playing in August." Maybe, but Eriksson betrayed the reality when he added: "He had a great career. He was historic."

The three FA Cup finalists, Ashley Cole, Wayne Bridge and Beattie, will not join up until 23 May, when the squad have a week-long "bonding" break with their families in La Manga. Owen Hargreaves will not join up until they regroup in Leicester on 1 June as he is remaining with Bayern Munich until after the German Cup final. David Beckham, who is suspended for the Slovakia tie, will withdraw after South Africa. His presence there appears as important for marketing purposes (his and the Football Association's) as playing ones although all parties are keen that he be present when the team meet Nelson Mandela.

"I think the captain should be there," said Eriksson. It is a long way to go for a photo opportunity.


Friendlies v South Africa, Durban, 22 May; v Serbia & Montenegro, Leicester, 3 June; Euro 2004 qualifier v Slovakia, Middlesbrough, 11 June

James (West Ham), Robinson (Leeds), Walker (Leicester); * A Cole (Arsenal), * Bridge (Southampton), Mills (Leeds), P Neville, Ferdinand (both Manchester Utd), Southgate (Middlesbrough), Terry (Chelsea), Upson (Birmingham City); Beckham, Scholes (both Manchester Utd), Dyer, Jenas (both Newcastle), * Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Murphy, Gerrard (both Liverpool), Lampard (Chelsea), Sinclair (West Ham); Owen, Heskey (both Liverpool), Rooney (Everton), Vassell (Aston Villa), * Beattie (Southampton).

*Will join squad after friendly v South Africa