Roy Hodgson says he has faith in the partnership of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge to lead England’s World Cup finals campaign and the pair will begin working together in earnest this week towards starting in attack against Italy on 14 June.
The England manager believes that the two leading English goalscorers in the Premier League last season are his best combination and will try to give them as much time as possible, starting with Friday’s friendly at Wembley against Peru. Sturridge’s relatively new international career means the two of them have played just 336 minutes together over five of England’s eight games since the Republic of Ireland friendly in May last year.
But given the inconsistency surrounding Rooney in his last two tournaments, there is hope from Hodgson that this time he can find a partnership that will work.
At the last World Cup finals, Fabio Capello started with Rooney behind Emile Heskey, and when that failed to yield results, he brought in Jermain Defoe to partner the Manchester United man. Two years later at Euro 2012, Hodgson used Danny Welbeck with Ashley Young and then with Andy Carroll during Rooney’s suspension. Rooney and Welbeck started the latter two games against Ukraine and Italy.
Hodgson said he had not “really seen” the Rooney-Sturridge partnership in earnest. “We saw it for 20 minutes before Daniel got injured against Republic of Ireland. We’ve seen an awful lot of the Sturridge-[Luis] Suarez partnership but not a lot of Rooney-Sturridge because they haven’t had a lot of time to play together. Now’s our chance.
“When we start tactical preparation is when the partnerships will start to develop. It won’t just be Rooney-Sturridge we will be working on; Welbeck and Rickie Lambert as well. I think it’s too early to start making big bold statements and judgements on the Rooney-Sturridge partnership being X or Y because we haven’t seen enough of it.”
The friendly against Peru at Wembley will allow Hodgson to see Sturridge and Welbeck together – in the 4-2-3-1 formation with the United man as the No 10. Raheem Sterling is also likely to get his third cap for England after impressive performances in training last week. Should Jack Wilshere begin the game, it would be his first start for club or country since he broke a navicular bone in his foot against Denmark in March.
Although Sturridge’s partnership with Suarez has been identified as the most potent in the league this season, both men have scored more goals in the absence of the other. When both have been on the pitch they have each averaged a goal every 126 minutes. Sturridge averaged a goal every 85 minutes he played with Suarez off the pitch. Suarez without Sturridge averaged a goal every 93 minutes.
Thus far for England, Rooney and Sturridge have scored three times between them when the other has been on the pitch. Sturridge said last week that he and Rooney “get along” and that he regarded himself as the junior man.
“He is a senior professional, been in the game a long time, experienced European championships and World Cups. For me to be around players like him, Stevie [Gerrard], [Frank] Lampard, I am still learning. Open-eared, just taking it in. There is always something new to learn.”
The England squad reconvened at St George’s Park on Monday and will train in front of the cameras this morning. They will work towards the Peru game before one final day off on Saturday. They fly to Miami on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney has partnered Daniel Sturridge for just five and a half hours in an England shirt. The pair have played together in five of the 27 matches since Sturridge’s 2011 debut.
Striker light: duo’s lack of playing time
29 May 2013 v Rep of Ire (h) D 1-1. Played together for 33 minutes.
11 Oct v Montenegro (h), W 4-1. 90 minutes. Goals: Rooney, Sturridge (pen).
15 Oct v Poland (h) W 2-0. 82 minutes. Goal: Rooney.
19 Nov v Germany (h) L 0-1. 71 minutes.
5 Mar 2014 v Denmark (h) W 1-0. 60 minutes.
Total minutes together 336