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Friday, 12 March 2010

Wayne's World: bald patches, nappies and high hopes of knocking out Cristiano Ronaldo

IN 1998, when Michael Owen was tearing Argentina apart before David Beckham got sent off in that notorious World Cup quarter-final, Wayne Rooney was watching on the sofa at his nan’s on Merseyside.
Twelve years later, Owen and Beckham are fading fast and it’s Wayne’s World – with only 90 days of normality left before the big kick off in South Africa on June 11.
As he toured the nation with the trophy England haven’t won since 1966, Rooney opened up a bit after his four-goal blitz put Milan out of the Champions League (below) – and placed him firmly above the rest as the world’s best striker.
Speaking at Earl’s Court in London after a gig for World Cup fans by The Enemy, Rooney said: "I remember watching Michael score that goal. I was watching with my family round at my nan's, only a young boy at the time. It's a dream to play for your country in anything - to do so in the World Cup is unbelievable.
“You try not to think too much about the World Cup but it’s always in the back of your mind. It’s a bit weird it’s so close now.
“We will be going to South Africa well prepared. Hopefully we'll have a great tournament and have this (he said, patting the World Cup) back here come the end of July.”
As for the debate over the world’s best player, Rooney said: “It’s nice to hear these things, but you don’t read too much into it. I’d go for Cristiano Ronaldo. He's a great player - but it would be nice to knock them out."
As for his recent run of headed goals – seven of his last eight have come from the forehead – Rooney said: "I've worked a lot on my heading. It's going well - perhaps it's coming off my bald patch!"
But more important things have happened off the pitch for the former Everton striker. Like the birth of his son Kai. Still just 24, he grinned: "I've enjoyed being a dad. You could say it’s changed me. It's different and hard work but a great feeling.
"I've changed a lot in the last couple of years anyway, and becoming a father means you have to be a role model for your son and be someone he can look up to.
"Changing nappies is probably the hardest thing so far - and I hear it gets harder as well.
"He's been to a few matches, even though he probably doesn't know what's happening yet."

Labels: cristiano ronaldo knock-out, earl's court, headers, manchester united four goal blitz, neal collins in south africa, the enemy, , wayne's world, world cup 2010 trophy tour

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

It's the Little and Large show for England as African champions Egypt are wellied at Wembley

IN the end England relied on Little and Large to ease them out of an embarrassing situation against Egypt at Wembley tonight.
Peter Crouch, Tottenham's 6ft 7in streak of ligament, and Shaun Wright-Phillips, Manchester City's 5ft 5in mini-me, got the goals that took Fabio Capello's men from 1-0 down to 3-1 up in 45 glorious second half minutes.
Remember, Egypt are the three-time African champions. Only a last-gasp play-off against Algeria forced them out of the World Cup in South Africa this summer, it would have been their first since they scared the life out of England, Holland and the Republic of Ireland at Italia 90.
While the tabloids prepared their "England in a Pharoah crisis" headlines after 45 minutes, Capello worked his magic, bring on Crough for Jermain Defoe and Wright-Phillips for Theo Walcott. Lovely line Chriss Waddle, who said: "I've studied Walcott on the wing. And I've decided he just doesn't understand football. He makes the wrong runs at the wrong time."
Most Arsenal fans would agree. The boy's got pace, but little else. Oh, and Capello also brought on the under-rated Manchester United playmaker Michael Carrick for Chelsea's over-hyped Frank Lampard and Aston Villa's James Milner for Liverpool's Stevie Gerrard, who rarely impresses for England. Those might have been the best moves of all.
So, after Matthew Upston's slip gifted Mohammed Zidan an opening goal - leading to calls for the Premier League to sign the 28-year-old, currently at Borussia Dortmund - there was a touch of unrest at Wembley.
Capello had his half-time chat, made a few changes, and presto! England came roaring back. What a night. Crouchie took his tally to 20 in 37 for England - if only he could do that in the Premiership - with a superb double. Ironically, Defoe, who scores so frequently for Spurs, failed where his club-mate thrived.
Wright-Phillips scored the second after a Milner volley, made the third for Crouch. Their celebration saw a high five for Wright-Phillips. A low-five for Crouch. Great stuff.
Capello, with a little help from the interpreter, said: "The second half we won the ball back quickly. I think I'm happy. We have to choose a lot of players, it's good. Crouch is an option, he play very well. It's very important because the second half he made the different.
"Always when you go forward, you take the ball, and the whole team goes forward."
Not entirely sure what all that means, but somewhere between the lines I guess you can predict Crouchie - and Shaun Wright-Phillips - will be part of the 23-man squad that travels to Rustenburg on June 1.
Interesting to see David Beckham warming up but not getting on. Loved James Milner. Came on and produced a lovely volley that led to the Wright-Phillips goal.
Wes Brown at right back? No. Forget Gary Neville and Glen Johnson. Try James Milner. Upson erred for the first goal but John Terry, booed a little at the outset, seemed to forge are reasonable partnership with him.
West Ham's Rob Green continues to hold off Portsmouth's David James and Birmingham's on-loan Joe Hart in goal.
It's all settling down. England are up to eight in the FIFA world rankings. I still say England should be backed for global supremacy at Soccer City on July 11. Forget the Terry/Cole disruptions. We have the depth, Capello has the knowledge. Egypt are in denial.

Labels: african nations cup winners, booing, , england at wembley, , , Peter crouch, SHAUN WRIGHT PHILLIPS, ,

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Wayne's World: from teen tempest to a man united... and the Egyptians quake

IT seems like just yesterday we were worried about Wayne Rooney's knee.
Today he's unstoppable, the World Cup is ours, Egypt will be flattened on Wednesday, pyramids and all.
Yes, a day can be a long time in football, especially when the England squad are gathered at The Grove with the nation's media in attendance before Wednesday's friendly against Egypt at Wembley (where the surface, according to James Milner, is as bad as World Cup venue Nelspruit, but that's another story).
Yesterday, after Sir Alex Ferguson had warned of a possible knee problem, the Wonder that is Wayne emerged to say all the right things, calming the nation from Defcon 1 to a state of calm serenity.
And as I said here three weeks ago when John Terry was stripped of the captaincy, Rooney emerged before the microphones looking every inch like the man who will lift the World Cup at Soccer City on July 11.
Well, we can dream can't we?
The Wisdom of Wayne knows no bounds. The wild Evertonian has become a man united.
Thus spake Rooney, the 24-year-old who looks like he always has but appears to have matured in every other way: "I feel good. I feel every game I'm going to score. I do feel unstoppable."
Which is exactly what all those nice foreign coaches were saying about him in Sun City last week. Good to hear our spearhead is sharp and confident.
He was even able to explain why, after his headed winner in the Carling Cup final against Aston Villa on Sunday, he has changed his method of scoring. From four headers in 345 games to eight in nine. Echoing my point yesterday about Valencia versus Cristiano Ronaldo, he said: "This year, with Antonio Valencia, the delivery has been better than previous years. But I've been working on my heading. My movement and timing has got better. It has all come together and that is probably why I am scoring more with my head.”
Ah but we've seen this before. A player in top form then suddenly, under the blazing Sun, people like Ashley Cole, John Terry and Wayne Bridge (not to mention their partners) begin to wilt.
No problem there either. After begging the Wembley fans not to boo former captain Terry, he says: “I don’t feel any pressure. I have had to deal with pressure since I was 16. You get used to it. I deal with it in a way I feel comfortable.
“What I will do is try and play my best, give my all. I am ready for the World Cup. I am in the best form of my life. I am ready
"It is difficult as a footballer because you know people look up to you.
"You are role models, whether you like it or not, and you need to try and be aware of that and try to do your best on the pitch and try and do things well for kids to see.
"When I first joined Manchester United I would go out to nightclubs, but it is very rare that I would go out to a nightclub now. It changes with age. I made that decision myself. I got into a few things that I shouldn’t have when I was younger and I tried to change that.
"I am settled at home now. It’s good. I am enjoying my life with my family. I spend a lot of time at home with them and that has obviously benefited me. When you are home you get your rest and it is definitely helping."
And yes, I agree. It all sounds too good to be true. But let's not worry about that. Roll on Egypt. Tutankahmun, Cleopatra, Sphinx, Anwar Sadat, your boys are in for one hell of a beating.

Labels: , england at wembley, , , , ,

Monday, 1 March 2010

The nation awaits news from the battle of Rooney's knee... or is it just a tummy bug?

GARY NEVILLE spoke for the whole nation this morning. And that alone is seriously worrying when you think about it. Still, these are desperate times. England as a footballing nation is now on red alert, defcon 1, teetering on the edge of panic.
Wayne Rooney has a knee injury. He may miss England's friendly against Egypt at Wembley on Wednesday. Uh-oh.
These are veteran Manchester United full-back Neville's momentous words this morning: "England cannot afford to lose him."
He's right. Of course he's right. The end of the World Cup is nigh. Doom, doom and thrice doom. We can do without Wayne Bridge or John Terry. But imagine going to South Africa in June with Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey up front. Or Jermain Defoe and Bobby Zamora. Unthinkable.
Even before the two goals at Milan in the Champions League and the winner against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final at Wembley yesterday, I was saying this to anyone who would listen on Sky News, talkSPORT, BBC Radio5, on South Africa's 702... and here it is again on my birthday blog.
If Rooney misses the World Cup, all hope is gone. Neville, a veteran of "We-can end 44 years of hurt" syndrome, saw his team-mate produce another nifty header yesterday.
The stats on Rooney's rather large forehead are bizarre. Four headers in his first 345 games. Then, in his last nine, eight headed goals. All of them vital, clinical. And 28 in all this season for a man in the form of his life (we'll go into the debate about how Antonio Valencia provides more dangerous crosses than Cristiano Ronaldo ever did at a later date).
Then Sir Alex Ferguson dropped the bombshell after his umpteenth trophy success yesterday: "Wayne got a whack. He has been complaining about that knee for a few weeks and I thought we might have to take him off.
"The doctors are assessing it. I don't know what England are going to do."
Well if he doesn't know, how does Fabio Capello get to grips with a side without their talismanic striker?
Neville, who played for so long behind a certain David Beckham on the right, added: "Wayne is a great player to play with. He has been brilliant for England too. The only thing he has to do for England now is go and win something. That is what England players have been striving to do for the past 40 years. That would really crown it off for him."
The nation trembles, though Rooney himself said from the England training base at The Grove this morning: "Yes it's okay, I went for a scan today and it's just a bit of bruising. So I'm having a bit of a rest day today, I should train tomorrow and should play on Wednesday."
Neville, perhaps more concerned about United's immediate fortunes, added. "We have two months of important matches now and we need him fit for them. It is there for everyone to see. He is going through a peak moment in his career. He is maturing now."
Still, perhaps we are worrying too much. Before yesterday's final Rooney - who came on for Michael Owen, scorer of United's opener in a 2-1 win - said he was starting on the bench because "I had a little bit of a stomach bug and the manager was looking for an excuse to leave me out".
Surely the same thing wouldn't happen before an England game, a vital friendly against the three-time African champions in the build-up to the World Cup?
Who would suggest such a thing of Sir Alex? Not I. That's for sure.

Labels: , , , knee injury, sir alex ferguson manchester united, stomach bug,

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

It was never about Beckham. For the next six months, it will be all about Rooney

IN THE end, it wasn't about 34-year-old David Beckham, it was about 24-year-old Wayne Rooney. And it will be all about Rooney for the next six months.
Manchester United's 3-2 win over AC Milan at the San Siro last night left Sir Alex Ferguson drooling and the rest of the world trembling.
Three hours before Beckham's Champions League clash against his old side, I said on Twitter: 'All set for the Becks and Fergie show. My money's on Man United. And Rooney to win the day.'
Rooney's two second-half headers - unlike some England players, he's starting to use his head to some effect - were his 24th and 25th goals in a best-ever season.
He is, by five goals, the best striker in Europe right now - his 21 Premier League goals have him five ahead of next-best Lionel Messi at Barcelona.
He has stepped up following the record-breaking transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo and he is ready to spearhead England's World Cup campaign in South Africa this summer. No question.
It's not as if Beckham was that bad. He should be on the flight to Rustenburg on June 1 too. And his Milan side, as he mentioned afterwards, are not out of it after a five-goal extravaganza at the San Siro. The second-leg at Old Trafford on 10 March promises to be quite a night.
Fergie drooled: "Wayne's in devastating form, they could not handle him in the second half. He was marvellous. He has to be regarded at the highest level, along with all the other players we know about."
That's the Scotsman's way of saying: "YES, BLOODY HELL, HE'S THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW."
And he's not far off - though Ronaldinho looked a bit special last night too.
Ferguson points out why Rooney is more important though: "He should score 30 goals this season, over the last two months, there has been a marked improvement in his game. Confidence has a lot to do with it of course. I just felt he had to improve his goalscoring, which is what he is doing now."
Beckham, hauled off after 72 industrious minutes which provided a few scares for his old boss, said: "I've always said Wayne is one of the best goalscorers in the world and he is obviously on fire again. If you give him chances he'll score goals, that's the way he is and the way his mind works."
Ronaldinho put Milan ahead, Paul Scholes scuffed an equaliser, then Rooney struck twice to give United a 3-1 edge which was drmatically cut back five minutes from the end by a lovely back-heeled Clarence Seedorf effort fromm close range.
Beckham concluded: "Clarence's second goal has made a comeback possible. It's not easy to go to Old Trafford and win 2-0 but we have made it a bit better for ourselves."
Back in the Premier League, former Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira got himself into trouble during Manchester City's 1-1 draw with Stoke City - Sky Sports News keep showing pictures of him shoving a boot into some poor Stoke lad's privates - and tonight his old side Arsenal take on Porto with five players injured. Apparently the Portuguese have injury problems too.
I suspect it won't be quite as good as last night's European extravaganza.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, 5 February 2010

Terry sacked as England captain, it's official. Capello: "I would like to thank the FA for letting me take this decision"

JOHN TERRY was sacked as England captain this afternoon at Wembley after a 12-minute meeting with coach Fabio Capello.
In a statement, Capello said: "After much thought I have made the decision that it will be best for me to take the captaincy away from John Terry.
"As a captain with the team, John Terry has displayed extremely positive behaviour.
"However, I have to take into account other considerations and what is best for all of the England squad.
"What is best for all of the England team has inspired my choice and John Terry was notified first."
Capello went on to say thanks to the FA for "allowing me to make the decision".
This blog suggested Terry was going at noon after receiving an email detailing further allegations to come against the £150,000-a-week Chelsea defender.
Rio Ferdinand - Capello's vice-captain - will be captain for the friendly against Egypt at Wembley on March 3.
Terry's demise was announced at around 3.30pm. I was on Sky News with, amongst others, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, PFA chief Gordon Taylor and the News of the World's Neil Ashton for about half-an-hour by phone discussing the decision.
Ashton, once a Sunday League team-mate of mine with the Warriors in Amersham, said the Terry family will not want to buy the News of the World on Sunday but Perroncel, according to Max Clifford, has now decided not to sell her exclusive story to the papers.
In a nicely worded statement she said her main concern was her three-year-old fathered by Wayne Bridge. Bit late in the day for sentiments like that, I would argue.
When the story of Terry's affair with Perroncel broke on Saturday after his super-injunction was over-turned, there was a groundswell of opinion against the immoral Chelsea leader.
But as the days passed, Ms Perroncel lost some of her allure as she joined forces with arch-publicist Clifford and hawked her story around for £250,000.
The mood changed. Why ruin England's World Cup preparations by getting rid of the captain when the woman involved apparently slept with FIVE Chelsea players (according to The Sun) and has been dabbling with celebrities like the dark-haired bloke out of Steps since her teens?
Suddenly the underwear model was the bad lass, despite a tearful reunion with Wayne Bridge, father of her child and Terry's former Chelsea team-mate. We were ready to write off Terry's affair - which allegedly featured an abortion and a £20,000 payment - as just another footballer going astray with a temptress.
Even his wife Toni, who fled to Dubai with the Terry twins after the story broke, publicly said she would forgive him when he flies over for Valentine's Day, missing Chelsea's FA Cup clash with Cardiff on February 13.
But today the mood changed. And there are several reasons for it, not all of them publishable at this point.
Word reaches me that Terry may indeed have slept with another team-mate's wife at Chelsea. The woman is a model and a mother. Hilarious. Not.
On top of that, Perroncel has apparently slept with "another household name" at Chelsea. The Mirror made that allegation on Wednesday. I have the name. Actually two. One of them is really going to shake things up.
On top of that, also in the top-secret email naming these names, came the allegations over Terry's use of a box at Wembley. Certain claims were made. Now, 24 hours later, if you read this morning's Daily Mail back page, you'll see further details of that. Terry's minders are offering to hire the box out to a third party for around for £4,000, which is "strictly prohibited".
The Daily Mail suggests this is "so much more serious" than his personal problems. I'm not sure I agree with that. The email I've seen also suggests further revelations with more women, coming on top of the eight already listed in most papers so far. I was going to keep the email to myself until the box story emerged this morning. But it looks all too accurate.
Poor old Terry. He must have thought he was slipping out of the noose when Stuart Pearce, Capello's closest English ally and the England Under 21 manager, came out on Tuesday saying Terry should keep the captain's armband (available for £4 at the Wembley shop).
But with further revelations now a promise rather than a threat, Capello - a devout Catholic and a disciplinarian nicknamed "Generalissimo" in Italy - decided to act before Sunday's exclusive hits the streets.
And the new captain? Rio Ferdinand. The Manchester United centre-back has been injured for weeks. And he was banned one game into his comeback.
What worries me now Terry is gone is that his successor will get it in the neck from the tabloids, who will remember his lengthy ban for missing a drugs test three years ago. And ultimately it won't just be Terry and Bridge who suffer. It will be England's long-cherished World Cup dream in South Africa.
Terry was the best man for the job. The only one capable of playing under such intense pressure, as he will have to do again when Chelsea play Arsenal on Sunday. Watch this space.

Labels: , , , ,