Rooney sure of England place after Hodgson pines for star striker's return
Wayne Rooney will step straight back into the England side when he has recovered from his gashed thigh.
Roy Hodgson, who has been in contact with the injured Manchester United attacker, underlined Rooney's importance to England yesterday. "The sooner he comes back into our fold the better,'' said Hodgson.
Rooney's return, probably in time for next month's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland, confirms Hodgson's total faith in him and contains ramifications for clubmates. Tom Cleverley currently has possession of the England No 10 shirt, and Hodgson has always said Rooney's best position is in the hole.
Rooney can also play up top. Danny Welbeck excelled off the bench to win the penalty for Frank Lampard to give England a 1-1 draw with Ukraine on Tuesday. Welbeck reminded everyone that for all Jermain Defoe's talents, the United youngster is well-suited to that front-running role. A Rooney-Welbeck axis, which Hodgson used at Euro 2012, could be resumed.
One thing is for sure. For all the criticism that follows Rooney around, he is a starter for Hodgson. "We'll get the best out of him because he's desperate to play for England,'' said Hodgson. "He's an excellent footballer and quality is permanent.
"The sooner he comes back into our fold the better because we are short of experienced and quality front players. We are blessed with quite a few very good midfielders.''
Michael Carrick is one of them. Rooney's clubmate started neither of England's opening qualifiers but Hodgson insists that he is very much part of England's plans, saying: "Michael Carrick's got a good future. We like him, he's a good player but I was pleased with the way Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard were performing.''
Gerrard's suspension against San Marino, following his late sending-off against Ukraine, offers an obvious opportunity for Carrick, although Hodgson will hope to have Jack Wilshere available.
The Arsenal midfielder is back in first-team training, although nobody will rush his return after being out with ankle and knee problems since August 2011. Blending young and old is the fine balancing act for Hodgson to achieve as he seeks to qualify for Brazil.
Hodgson struck a defiant note when suggesting that England could win in Ukraine on September 10, 2013.
"We are more than capable of going anywhere in the world and getting results, as we've shown in the past,'' said Hodgson. (© Daily Telegraph, London)