When Steven Gerrard stepped down as England captain following a dismal World Cup campaign, there was only one viable candidate to take over the armband. Despite Sky Sports News trying to garner some debate around the decision by touting Gary Cahill and Joe Hart as potential Three Lions leaders, Wayne Rooney was always going to get the nod. The Manchester United striker will become England’s all-time record goal-scorer, and on his day, remains Hodgson’s only truly world-class performer. But will Rooney be able to remove himself from England’s disappointing so-called Golden Era and lead his country to a brighter future? Euro 2016 could come too soon for Hodgson’s current squad, who are likely to peak in Russia two years later. Raheem Sterling, and not Rooney, could be the man to drag England forward. The 19-year-old was a bright spark as he combined with Daniel Sturridge and Jack Wilshere against Norway. Italy legend Andrea Pirlo claimed that Sterling was the only England player to cause him concern at the World Cup, and the Liverpool forward’s ability to pick up the ball, turn, and accelerate away from opponents will cause any international side problems. It won the hosts their second-half penalty, allowing Rooney to score the winner. The headache for Hodgson is that Sterling is at his most dangerous playing in the No10 role, a position which his captain currently occupies behind Sturridge. What about the burden? Well, the Premier League season may be three weeks old, but Sterling is already stepping out of the shadow of Luis Suarez at Liverpool.
With Ashley Cole calling time on his international career before the World Cup, and Gerrard and Frank Lampard deciding to focus on their club career following a disappointing Brazil, England were supposed to kick-start a new era at Wembley on Wednesday night. Hodgson has escaped relatively unscathed despite picking up one point from three group games at this summer’s major tournament. Insisting that his England vision would take time to realise, the manager started the likes of Sterling, John Stones and Wilshere in a bid to ring the changes and breathe life into a stagnating national set-up. But the Three Lions were as disappointing as the 41,000 turnout at Wembley against a pretty average Norway side. This England outfit are looking more like Liverpool under the 67-year-old. Most supporters have come to accept that the squad doesn’t possess the world-class talents of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Gerrard, Lampard and Michael Owen of yesteryear. But Hodgson needs to instil a clear philosophy, otherwise he could face a similar fate to the one that he received at Anfield.
After a disappointing friendly, England supporters were left scraping the barrel for positives after a stodgy performance from the home side. Joe Hart, with the exception of Sterling, was England’s best player. Despite the hosts dominating possession, it was the visitors who had the best chances at Wembley. Joshua King forced the Manchester City goalkeeper to produce a fingertip save to divert the striker’s attempt wide for another corner early in the second half. Moments later, and King robbed Gary Cahill to tee up Mats Møller Dæhli, but the Cardiff midfielder was denied by a brave Hart save. With Fraser Forster making the move to Southampton this summer, which is sure to keep the shot stopper on Hodgson’s radar, Hart will have offered up a gentle reminder to his manager that he should remain first-choice.
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