One could make a decent case that Roy Hodgson has too many quality options at striker just eight months out from the 2016 European Championship in France; that he can only get in his own way now that his greatest defense — “England don’t have the quality players to compete at the highest level anymore” — is perhaps no longer true.
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Hodgson, who last summer named Wayne Rooney captain of the Three Lions, knows this. He also knows that to keep England’s talisman motivated, focused and working hard every single day to ensure his place, he must continue to challenge the 29-year-old.
As such, Hodgson was quoted on Thursday, having said Rooney’s place in the England squad and starting lineup will not be guaranteed, considering the wide array of options current at his disposal — quotes from the Guardian:
“At the moment, that day has not arrived and, with any luck, it won’t arrive because he will continue to play well and he will continue to merit his place and we will still talk as warmly about him after the tournament in June as we are now — but there is no guarantee.
“I have been in football a long time and Wayne Rooney has been in football a long time. He would regard me as someone who is very false if I ever said to him: ‘Your place is guaranteed.’ He would not expect it and I would be very upset anyway if anyone asked me to give them a guarantee of a place. No one else has ever done it and I would take umbrage if that day ever arrived.”
With the likes of Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, and now Danny Ings and Jamie Vardy, all making their respective cases for a place in Hodgson’s latest and upcoming squads, it’s a no-brainer that Rooney’s place is hardly “guaranteed.” With that said, Rooney will have to go two or three months at a time without a goal to be left out of the lineup at EURO 2016, let alone the 23-man squad.
Of the seven aforementioned strikers, Rooney is by far the most versatile and experienced on the international stage. Whether he leads the line up top, drops in the hold behind Kane or Sturridge, or gets pushed out to the left wing, Rooney will feature heavily for England next summer.
For the first time in his England tenure, Hodgson has a number of quality options at striker — perhaps most importantly, they’re all unique to one another and bring a hugely different dimension to the team. While options are undoubtedly great, for Hodgson it also means added responsibility — and the pressure that comes with it — to get it right.