Paul Parker

Rooney must follow Gerrard’s example

Paul Parker

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Gerrard has been a model of discipline and restraint for Hodgson's England

Wayne Rooney will come back into the England team against Ukraine, and on the face of it that is great news for England.

However, he will have to fall in line with Roy Hodgson's new, disciplined England if the team are to continue their unbeaten run under their current manager.

The forward will bring some much-needed creativity to the team as they seek to book their place in the quarter-finals, a success when put up against pre-tournament expectations.

Rooney may also be the man to coax some better performances out of his Manchester United team-mate, Ashley Young, who has so far largely failed to bring his strong pre-tournament form with him to Poland and Ukraine. He can also help another of his colleagues from Old Trafford, Danny Welbeck, maintain what has been an impressive showing at his first major tournament so far.

He may well come into the side eager to prove himself, to make amends for his petulant error which led to a red card against Montenegro and him missing the first two games of the tournament. He will want to get out there and do everything, cover every blade of grass to show how much he cares about playing for England.

Hodgson must make Rooney realise that such an approach just will not fit in the current system in which everyone has a designated job to do and an specific area in which to do it. As admirable as it is to see Rooney popping up at right-back helping out his defenders, that sort of free rein would run the risk of compromising the regimented way Hodgson has got England playing and has seen him claim three wins and a draw so far.

Sure, England will not have to line up as rigidly and negatively as they did against France in their opening game, but even in victory against Sweden there was plenty of cause to worry that England opening up even a little too much makes them vulnerable.

Of course, Rooney has been training with Hodgson in the England set-up for as long as anyone, even if he has only got half an hour or so of playing time under his belt for the new boss, so he should know full well what is required of him.

But, should he need an example of how to rein in his extravagant excesses for the greater good of the team, it is right there in his captain, Steven Gerrard. At Liverpool, Gerrard needs no permission to do as he pleases. The rest of the team compensates for him. That is perhaps the major reason why he has rarely produced his best performances at international level.

However, in this tournament he has been a model of discipline and restraint. His anchoring of the midfield alongside Scott Parker was a major factor in securing the 1-1 draw with France which has helped put them within a point of the knockout phase.

In wearing the captain's armband at the last World Cup, Gerrard was the best of a bad bunch in South Africa. Now leading his country again, he has helped set the example of how players sticking to their brief can reap rewards.

If Rooney can follow Gerrard's example and stick to his role in the team, then he can live up to Hodgson's billing of him as England's ace in the hole.

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