Rooney can shine in Sturridge's shadow

Rooney can shine in Sturridge's shadow
Wayne Rooney (left) and Daniel Sturridge.

For the first time, Wayne Rooney is where he needs to be ahead of a major tournament - in the shadows and almost neglected.

If he's not quite the forgotten man, he's certainly no more than a first among near equals.

The hopes of a global nation of England fans no longer rest entirely on his broad shoulders. Daniel Sturridge can also bear the burden. A striking problem shared is a problem halved.

And the Three Lions haven't had a problem quite like Rooney for a generation.

Ahead of every tournament since his initial explosion at Euro 2004, he flew out of England as the great white hope. He usually returned as a reviled fat dope.

Neither description was entirely deserved, saying more perhaps about the fickle followers of English football rather than its fluctuating fortunes. Nevertheless, the stats are inescapable.

Rooney heads to his third World Cup Finals with not a goal to his name. Not a single strike in eight appearances. It's not for the want of trying, but for the want of a reliable strike partner.

In 1966, Geoff Hurst profited from the selfless, tireless running of Roger Hunt. Peter Beardsley roamed mischievously around the poaching Gary Lineker at Italia'90 and Teddy Sheringham probed while Alan Shearer plundered when football almost came "home" at Euro 96.

Coincidental or not, England's three most productive outings at major tournaments all benefited from double acts and attacking tandems.

Even Michael Owen admitted that his pace was neutered without the powerful support of Emile Heskey.

But Rooney mostly ploughed a lone furrow, sometimes injured and emotionally volatile. He was all dressed up in his whites with no one to play with; a born street-fighter with no accomplices. He was hung out to dry.

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