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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Dumping Wayne was the easiest option

Southgate's attempt to show that he has a ruthless streak had the opposite impact

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney

Ruthless men seldom want to advertise that fact. It tends to dilute the impact if you have to tell someone that you take no prisoners.

This week, Gareth Southgate told us he was a ruthless man by dropping Wayne Rooney.

"Look at me," he said. "Look what I'm doing. I'm dropping Wayne Rooney."

Across England, fans of the national team sighed and wondered about the future for their team and I have to say, it doesn't look great.

For a start, Rooney at half pace and with one leg in a wellington boot is a better midfield option that Eric Dier or anyone else Southgate had available for the game against Slovenia.

I'm all for new beginnings and clearing out dead wood, but you have to have bright new people to man the barricades when you take out old soldiers.

This is not to say that at club level Rooney is up against the fight of his life to convince Jose Mourinho that he has a contribution to make at Old Trafford where he has been slowly changing from the dynamic footballer who made things happen to someone watching the world go by and wondering why he can't make his mark any more.

But the whole England set-up is so dysfunctional that Southgate dropping a player who is better than anyone else he had available is seen as a good thing.

Cruel

It was unnecessarily cruel to Rooney and when you actually look at what happened, it wasn't a very ruthless at all.

If Southgate had dropped him, said nothing and announced his team to the world an hour before kick-off, that would have been a pragmatic move by a good manager and a ruthless act, in its own way.

By doing what everyone was telling him to do, Southgate followed the herd while he made his big point.

To make matters worse, he then sent Rooney out to take the heat, the least ruthless thing he could have done in the circumstances.

Rooney was, if nothing else, dignified during his press conference. He must look at Jordan Henderson and Dier, two ordinary players, and wonder how they have become a better option than him.

But that's a different story and just one of the factors which feed into England being such a mess at international level.

Southgate is being primed for the job but I'm not sure he will get it in the end, particularly if he is such a pushover for the English FA spin doctors. No doubt, they were the ones who thought it was a good plan to subject Rooney to such a harsh spotlight.

It would have been ruthless had Southgate thrown them all out of his training camp and dealt with Rooney in a football way. Sure, drop him, if that's the call Southgate felt was the right one to make. But do it your own way, don't be swayed or directed by men who are paid to make black look white.

Spin is never needed when things are going well and England is always surrounded by a posse of these people.

Southgate has a couple more games to prove himself and if they decide he is not up to the job, I'm not sure where the people at Lancaster Gate will turn.

The Sam Allardyce appointment was supposed to inject some fighting spirit into the team when what was really needed was a good manager who could organise the players in a coherent way and pick his best team.

The rush to appoint a British manager means that Southgate, a man with limited enough experience, has been given a chance.

I assume that discrete enquiries are going on o line up alternatives and for their own sake, they need to have a wider talent pool to look in then England.

I still think the England job could be a great one to do and not impossible, as some make it out to be.

A good comparison is Spain, who couldn't win a tournament to save their lives and could always be expected to qualify brilliantly and collapse in the finals.

But then they appointed a great manager, Vicente del Bosque, and went on to dominate international football completely.

That's what England should do. Appoint a good manager and back him up. They haven't done that for a long time.

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