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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Why Rooney is 10 years ahead of his time

By Mark Lawrenson
BBC Sport football expert

Wayne Rooney celebrates his goal against Liechtenstein
Rooney is a major player for England

We have seen the best of Wayne Rooney in the two England games this week - but he will get even better.

Everyone has been telling us for weeks and weeks that Rooney can be whatever he wants to be and I believe that in at least one respect, the Everton 17-year-old is 10 years ahead of his time.

He has been most impressive this week - in the second half against Macedonia and against Liechtenstein on Wednesday - playing behind the front two.

There's no doubt he has the ability to play that role. He's got great vision, we know about his touch, we know about his awareness and we certainly know about his strength.

He is going to be a major, major player for England.

However, and with a view to Turkey, I can't see England going there and playing him behind the front two.

I think that would be a massive gamble.

But there's no doubt that even on a poor night - and I'm not saying he had a poor night against Liechtenstein - Wayne Rooney does things that put you on the edge of your seat.

Rooney's goal on Wednesday was actually a really, really good move by England.

There was a knockback from Steven Gerrard and the movement from Rooney was magnificent for a 17-year-old - he is 10 years ahead of his time in terms of that.

I think the thing with England is that, having taken 19 points from seven games, they know now that had they beaten Macedonia at home instead of drawn, they would have been home and hosed.

Instead they need to draw in Turkey to win the group - but there is hope there.

Bulent Korkmaz of Turkey is put under pressure by the Republic of Ireland's Gary Doherty
Turkey struggled to cope with Ireland on Tuesday

I watched Turkey on Tuesday against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin and they have all sorts of problems defensively.

I can't imagine for the life of me that Michael Owen for one, if he gets chances in Turkey, will not score against them.

The way you play for a draw away from home is by posing the opposition problems defensively.

I think England will qualify and win the group but the massive hope is that you don't have one or two lunatics spoiling it that night.

The best thing would be for no England fans to travel at all.

The great problem is that that punishes the really genuine England supporters of which there are massive numbers.

We know it is just this mindless element but there is a worry about this element and, if you are an English fan, whatever you do, don't go.







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