Jun 11, 2014, 8:55 PM EDT
After weeks of pundits and fans alike claiming that Wayne Rooney should be stripped of his starting spot by Roy Hodgson, the Manchester United striker is finally fighting back, claiming “I don’t care what anyone says, I’m ready for this World Cup.”
The motives behind the movement to oust Rooney from his starting spot have been weak at best, yet nevertheless, in this pre-World Cup time of drama, have caught fire.
It began with cynics accusing him of having a poor 2013/14 season at United where he managed 17 goals and 12 assists in 29 appearances. It then progressed on to Rooney’s unremarkable form in past World Cups, where injuries and a lack of fitness played strong roles in his failing to score a single goal. Finally, the scales reached the tipping point as England’s young talent – notably Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and, to the extent you consider a 26-year-old to be ‘young’, Adam Lallana – have shown strong form in England’s warm-up matches.
The whole argument was vintage English drama leading up to a World Cup: find a potential negative and magnify it. Since the squad has looked quite good leading up to the tournament and, miraculously, there’s hardly a whisper of winning the title, Rooney has become everyone’s favorite scape-goat.
Finally, Phil Neville (of all people) came out earlier today calling the whole situation a “witch hunt” and noting that “Wayne is our best player and that’s a fact.” And now, Rooney himself has stepped to the mic to hit out at his critics.
“I don’t care about what anyone says. I’m ready for this World Cup. I’m focused and I feel I’ve still got a massive role to play in this team,” he said.
“Of course there is competition for places, there always is playing for your country, but I’m ready for that and I’m not worried about anything. There is so much ability and it’s a joy to be a part of.
“I feel great. I feel 100% fit and ready for the tournament. I’m not going to sit here and say ‘expect this, expect that’ from me, I know how these tournaments work, but I will give my best for the team.”
England’s 2014 World Cup opener is against Italy this Saturday, in Manaus.
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