PAUL Scholes might regard his old Manchester United team-mate as burned out and past his best but you don't leave Wayne Rooney out of your team, you really don't.
In fact, if it was up to me, you would base your team around him, because he is world-class. Although Rooney hasn't set the heather on fire for England recently, he is always capable and you need experience to help your young players through. This World Cup could be when he reminds everyone exactly what he has to offer.
The trouble England have had before is fitting too many egos into the one team, but there is a balance about this side. They have experience and youth, good width and not too many good players fighting for one position. There seems to be more acceptance of where they are, a realisation that some good players might have to go on the bench at times without dummies being thrown out of the pram.
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Rooney epitomises this for me. You need to blood youngsters at some point, but you can't put in too many at once. You need someone to help guys like Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, assuming he can shrug off his injury, and Rooney is that type of guy.
The first thing about him is he is always a team player. You can ask him to play different positions, on the left, midfield, off the front, striker, and he will. Whatever Sir Alex Ferguson asked of him, he did. He has that individual side to his game where he will score unbelievable solo goals, but he is a team man. He can do the defensive side as well as create and was one of the few at Manchester United last season who could hold his head up.
There has been talk of playing him on the left to accommodate Barkley, but I would go with a 4-4-1-1 with Rooney behind Daniel Sturridge. When you don't have the ball, he drops off. When you do have it, he still finds those pockets. And when you are high up the pitch it becomes like a 4-4-2.
England have a tough group with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica, but they can reach the quarter-finals. That would be a good achievement for them. It is a hard group to call: it could be one of those where the three big sides get the same points total and one goes out on goal difference, but I have a feeling Uruguay might miss out. Italy can start tournaments really poorly, so I wouldn't be surprised if England get at least a draw out of their match with them in Manaus on Saturday.
Italy drew a warm-up match against Luxembourg - losing Riccardo Montolivo to a broken leg - in the process, but their preparation often isn't great and they still get the results they have to when it matters.
I know how Roy Hodgson works because I have connections with his first-team coach Ray Lewington and I know he is astute, his training is excellent, with a lot of strict zonal work. One thing I will say is when England go out there, those players will know their jobs. But I don't think they have enough to win it, and I worry about the defensive side. Gary Cahill is getting better but they are maybe a top-class central defender away from being contenders. Glen Johnson is England's Alan Hutton, brilliant going forward, but needing to work harder defensively. They have to accept it will be another four or five years until they become a really top side. Until then, anything more than a quarter-final is a bonus.
As for the winners, I don't think you can look any further than Brazil. They have so many talented players and are on their home patch.
IT is little wonder that Ronny Deila couldn't stop smiling when he met the media at Celtic Park on Friday. To come straight from Stromgodset, not even one of the bigger clubs in Norwegian football, and get an opportunity to manage one of the biggest clubs in the UK, left him understandably like the cat who got the cream.
It is a fantastic opportunity for him, and he can't get them at a better time, as Neil Lennon has laid the foundations, both financially and on the field. It is a huge jump, not so much in terms of the standard of football, but the sheer size of club and the characters in the dressing room he will have to deal with.
There will obviously be a lot pressure on him going straight into the Champions League qualifiers, but I think Celtic will make it through qualifying. The players know how to get through now. It is about what happens when they get there. Celtic fans will accept not getting out of the group stage as long as the campaign isn't an absolute disaster, something like playing six games and losing six.
I would always like to see us promote our own Scottish managers, particularly with what has happened in England recently, and it doesn't look good that the Scottish champions have gone with a Norwegian. Some people will say Deila is a cheap option, but he speaks very well, looks like he has a passion about him, and deserves the benefit of the doubt. And he is halfway to being a success already, because in my opinion the league is already in the bag.
PEOPLE might say he is back at Rangers for a nice wee swansong, but knowing Kenny Miller as I do - we were team-mates at Ibrox for while - I'd say there are a good few years in him yet.
It looks like it isn't a big wage package he is on - he is just happy to get back home and in terms of what he can produce on the park it is a big coup for Rangers to get him playing at Championship level.
The fans don't seem to be trusting anybody, but no doubt the board are hoping that getting Kenny might start to appease some of them, and help get some finance back into the club. Whether it is enough remains to be seen, but don't think Kenny is here just to see out his career. There is a hunger in him you don't see until you have shared a dressing room with him.