'Rooney is England's most important player'

'Rooney is England's most important player'
Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney.
PHOTO: Reuters

They are the three most talked-about forwards in English football at the moment.

Jamie Vardy, Leicester City's rags-to-riches star, recently broke a 12-year English Premier League record by becoming the first man to score in 11 consecutive matches.

Harry Kane, 22, who scored a staggering 31 goals in all competition last season, has been tipped as a future England star.

Then there is Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney, the golden boy of English football for over a decade who has had to endure so much criticism over the past 12 months for his lack of form.

With the 2016 European Championship in France coming next June, there has been increasing debate over who Three Lions manager Roy Hodgson should give the nod to when the time comes.

However, Liverpool legend and ex-England international John Barnes was quick to dismiss suggestions that the in-form duo of Kane and Vardy should be leading the line at the expense of Rooney.

"Wayne Rooney is our most important striker," he told The New Paper.

"Our most important player, in fact.

"How long has Jamie Vardy been around for... three months? And they say he's going to win us the Euros?

"As for Harry Kane? We have to stop putting pressure on these young players.

"When someone has played consistently at a high level for five years, that's when you say he's a top player.

"You have players who come in and score 20 goals in one season and you don't see them ever again after that.

"Yes, they (Vardy and Kane) have great potential but they're inexperienced, and to say they're more important than Rooney... No.

"At the moment, England are an inexperienced team and we still need Rooney."

Apart from the likes of Kane and Vardy, there has also been an influx of exciting young players like Raheem Sterling, John Stones and Delle Alli - which is something Hodgson has received credit for.

Barnes, who won the first of his 79 caps at 19, knows what it takes to succeed at international level and believes the media and fans have to play their part for the promising talent to fulfil their potential.

He explained: "Too often we put pressure on an England team and then, when they don't perform, we say they're rubbish. "They're not rubbish.

"We're not the best in the world but we're not the worst.

"It's a young team with young players, so give them time to develop."

Still, it is unlikely that English fans will share the same sentiments as they wait for their first international trophy since winning the 1966 World Cup on home soil.

Unless they want to be disappointed once more, Barnes has advised the Three Lions faithful to lower expectations when they head for France for Euro 2016.

"If England get through the group I'll be happy," added the 52-year-old.

"We saw at last year's World Cup that they had an easy group and still got knocked out.

"We've got a lot of young players and I wouldn't want to put pressure on them .

"In two years' time, when the World Cup comes along, is when I feel we can put pressure on them (to go further).

"If we can go to the quarter-finals, semi-finals, even the final (of Euro 2016) I'll be happy, but if we don't, I wouldn't be too critical."

This article was first published on Dec 1, 2015.
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