Wayne Rooney’s World Cup finals preparation will start early this week, Roy Hodgson said today, with the Manchester United striker so determined to arrive for the tournament in good shape that he has taken his fitness trainer on holiday with him to Portugal.
Rooney is beginning his preparation today in the south of Portugal, under the auspices of the Manchester United fitness coach Tony Strudwick. The 28-year-old has not played since 26 April, having been variously described as suffering from a tight groin and stomach problem, and may not be ready to join in training when the squad arrives in the Algarve on Monday.
The England squad will meet on Sunday at St George’s Park in Burton and travel to Vale do Lobo, where they will spend five days away from their families preparing for the tournament. There is a squad dinner on the Sunday night at St George’s Park before they leave for Portugal.
Hodgson, who announced his 23-man squad on Monday, said that Rooney was working with two fitness trainers this week in order to be ready for training with the England squad. “Tony Strudwick [of Manchester United] has been in touch with us, who wanted to know about the pitch in Vale do Lobo. This is a free week, a week where players go off. Many do go to Portugal, where they have homes.
“Wayne is so determined to be up and running when we get there on 19 May. He’s got a house out there in Portugal. He’s not alone. A few of them are going out to Portugal. If they’ve got houses out there, that’s where they go on their week off. They don’t all go to Dubai and Las Vegas.
“His attitude is that he’s desperate to be up and running on 19 May. I’m not as desperate for him to be fully fit on the 19 May. I’m thinking more of the 14 June, but it’s still quite laudable that that’s the way he thinks and I’m not trying to dissuade him. But if I do get there on 19 May and the fitness people say he needs two or three days, I won’t be shedding any tears.”
There are still major concerns over Phil Jones, named in the 23-man squad by Hodgson, to the extent that two of the stand-by players, John Stones of Everton and Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan, will train with the main group in Portugal next week. Hodgson said that Stones would be Jones’s replacement if the latter did not recover from a shoulder injury, before the Fifa deadline to submit the squad on 2 June.
After that date, Hodgson would potentially be able to call up players from outside his seven on stand-by and he admitted that his decision not to take Ashley Cole could yet come back to haunt him. As he did with Rio Ferdinand, when he did not select the defender for the Euro 2012 squad, Hodgson said that there was no prospect of picking Cole once he had decided the 33-year-old was not his first choice left-back.
He said: “When I decided Leighton Baines might be No 1, then I decided the next one wouldn’t be Ashley and would be Luke Shaw. Circumstances could make the decision a very good one or it could make it a very bad one. An injury [for Baines] against Peru [the friendly on 30 May], would make the selection of Shaw a very bad selection. If we go through the World Cup with Baines playing the majority of games and Shaw coming on and doing very well it makes it a very good one.”
Hodgson said that he had not ruled out asking Cole to reconsider his international retirement, should Baines get injured after the 2 June deadline, and before the start of the tournament. Would he be prepared to return? “You would have to ask Ashley that,” Hodgson said. “I would like to think so.”
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