It was worrying that Sam Allardyce admitted he can’t control where Wayne Rooney plays after England ambled to a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win away to Slovakia on Sunday.
The striker drifting deep into an ineffectual midfield role was a major bone of contention under Roy Hodgson during Euro 2016, and Big Sam was brought in to shake up a national team at its lowest ebb following their 2-1 Last 16 loss to Iceland.
Sunday’s last gasp 1-0 win over Slovakia, with whom The Three Lions drew 0-0 in the group phase of this summer’s Euros, was the first tentative step on a rebuild that will take time, and therefore it could be argued that results at this stage are more important than performances.
But Rooney’s drifting remains an issue, and for Allardyce to turn around and say he can’t control it, frankly isn’t good enough.
“Wayne played wherever he wanted to,” he said of his captain who was making his 116th appearance on Sunday, surpassing David Beckham as England’s most capped outfield player.
“He did play a little deeper than I thought he’d play, but I was pleased with his performance.
“I think that he holds a lot more experience at international football than me as an international manager.
“Using his experience with a team, playing as a team member, it’s not for me to say where he is going to play. It’s up to me to ask whether he’s doing well in that position and contributing.”
Well firstly, it is up to you as a manager to dictate where players play and secondly he’s not contributing enough.
Rooney isn’t that good that he can demand an entire team to be built around him, enabling him to play in a free role like say Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
And in the meantime there are more promising midfielders missing out like Dele Alli and Ross Barkley, and strikers who are simply not getting the supply they need.
If there was any sort of spark about England you could excuse this loyalty to spent forces. But the lack of urgency against a side that were down to 10 men for 30 minutes, with England’s first shot coming only after an hour, was unacceptable.
This walking on eggshells around Rooney has to stop. He’s detrimental to the team and the aura around his England record goal (53) and outfield cap (116) haul is overshadowing what he can actually achieve in the here and now.
I said last week that Big Sam’s appointment was a chance to make brave changes, ones that would have been excused if they had backfired based on the sheer desperation of the situation.
Rooney has come out and said he will retire after the 2018 World Cup anyway, so it’s high time to start planning life without him by giving others a chance.
Allardyce was the supposed no-nonsense appointment to lead with authority, but instead he’s bowed to Rooney’s hype, persisted with him as captain, and is essentially maintaining a status quo.