Sven Goran Eriksson has said that English football is still "killing" Wayne Rooney more than it should and that his potential to win any game for the national side should make him the first name on the squad sheet for next summer's European Championships.
Eriksson, The Independent's new football columnist, told the English nation "don't kill Rooney" after the player's dismissal at Gelsenkirchen in the 2006 World Cup quarter-final against Portugal, and he declared after Rooney's three-game suspension for next summer's finals that the 25-year-old is still being subjected to more criticism than he would in continental Europe. "Criticise him for one or two days and then it's over," Eriksson said. "During the first days [the reaction] is the same in England as it would be in Italy, Portugal, Sweden. But here it has a habit of going on forever."
The Football Association is leaning towards an appeal to Uefa over the three-game ban but the Leicester City manager, who also declared in his valedictory press conference at Gelsenkirchen, that Rooney would "win a World Cup one day", insisted that his capacity to score in next summer's final in Kiev's Olympic Stadium made his selection essential, regardless of his absence earlier in the tournament.
"I don't know how [Fabio] Capello is thinking. I guess he is frustrated because it is obvious that Rooney is the best striker we have in England," said Eriksson, whose first column will be published on Wednesday. "I can guess that Wayne Rooney is disappointed as well. But I would take him to the finals – of course. England will go further than the group stage. You have the quarters straight away – you have a very fresh player for the quarter-finals. That's my idea. Rooney, we know, is a match-winner. That's why you have to take a gamble."
Eriksson did that with David Beckham, who broke a metatarsal before the 2002 World Cup and with Michael Owen, who did the same six months before the 2006 tournament. And he would take that gamble again. "I know some people thought that was wrong but if you think about Rooney, Beckham, Owen at that time – you had to take them because they can win a match for you."