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Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Eriksson gambles again on Rooney
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Wayne Rooney
Rooney must wait to resume full training
Sven-Goran Eriksson turned gambler when he picked Arsenal teenager Theo Walcott - a player he had never seen in action - for England's World Cup squad.

Now the Swede must roll the dice again after a scan on Wayne Rooney's foot injury effectively ruled him out of England's campaign until the last 16 stage at the earliest.

Eriksson sets such store by the 20-year-old's talent that he appears hell-bent on taking Manchester United's prodigy to Germany, irrespective of his physical condition.

Rooney will not even start full training until after a second scan on 14 June, leaving Eriksson to ponder whether to take a player who will clearly not be match fit to Germany in the hope he can make an impact in the latter stages.

Common sense says Eriksson should cut his losses, accept the worst and leave him behind - but Rooney has been making a nonsense of logic since emerging as a 16-year-old at Everton.

Eriksson's dilemma is brought into sharper focus by the rest of his attacking resources, which include Michael Owen, who has not started a Premiership game since New Year's Eve, the unproven Peter Crouch and the untried Walcott.

Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson is right to protect Manchester United's interests

He could use Steven Gerrard or Joe Cole playing off Owen, but such is his desire to pair Rooney with the Newcastle striker that all logic seems currently suspended.

England have until 9 June to finalise their squad, so Eriksson has more time to buy before making his decision, but reality suggests Jermain Defoe should not be taking a trip to the travel agent's just yet.

It is a fair guess to suggest that if any other player was in this position, Eriksson would already be putting a line through his name, particularly after the dismal failure of his decision to take a patently unfit David Beckham to Japan in 2002.

It is an indicator of Rooney's brilliance that Eriksson is prepared to wait until the last moment to assess his potential availability, and risk him taking up a place in the squad that may not be used.

Eriksson knows England's chances of winning the World Cup diminish remarkably minus Rooney, but all the hallmarks of his ill-fated Beckham gamble are stamped on the current Rooney debate.

Meanwhile, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is watching closely, painted as the sour-puss Scot who is putting the needs of his club before the hopes of the English nation.

Sadly for the flag-wavers, Ferguson has got this one spot on.

He is well within his rights to refuse to sanction a less than fully fit Rooney to play a part in England's plans. Every other club manager would do the same. And every set of supporters would expect their manager to do the same.

Ferguson will not bow to any pressure from England and he is right to do so.

Why should United risk their prize asset being set back on England's account, when they know any false moves at the start of next season could wreck their title hopes?

This is unpalatable news for the patriots, but exactly what Ferguson's thought processes will be.

Rooney is the key element of England's World Cup bid - but even Eriksson has to carefully weigh up whether he is hanging the dream on a false hope or taking a gambler's shot at glory.



SEE ALSO
Insane to take Wayne
26 May 06 |  Fun and Games
England team guide
22 May 06 |  England
Pick your England team
08 May 06 |  Squad selectors
World Cup schedule
25 May 06 |  Schedule
Have your say on the World Cup
28 Apr 06 |  Football
BBC World Cup coverage
27 Apr 06 |  BBC coverage


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