McClaren set to welcome back Rooney

September 28, 2006

Steve McClaren will name Wayne Rooney in the England squad on Friday for the first time since the World Cup.

Rooney is available for the Euro 2008 qualifiers against Macedonia and Croatia after serving a two-match ban for his red card in the World Cup quarter-final against Portugal.

McClaren has trickier decisions to make as he prepares to replace injury victims Owen Hargreaves and Aaron Lennon in the squad, which will be named tomorrow afternoon.

Newcastle's Scott Parker has made a solid case to be brought in for Hargreaves, who broke his leg playing for Bayern Munich earlier this month.

Joe Cole has only played 10 minutes for Chelsea this season after suffering a knee injury in pre-season which was aggravated on his comeback against Werder Bremen, two weeks ago.

McClaren is unlikely to pick Cole with no match practice and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant has the chance of his first call-up in place of Lennon, who is recovering from a knee operation.

Parker, 25, has been frozen out of the England team for two-and-a-half years but has been in good form since succeeding Alan Shearer as Newcastle captain.

He has won two caps for his country but has not played since a brief appearance as a substitute in a friendly against Sweden in March 2004.

Former boss Sven-Goran Eriksson dropped Parker onto the stand-by list for the Euro 2004 finals and never picked him again.

Eriksson was always understood to be concerned about Parker's pace and his disciplinary record.

McClaren's options for the holding role in midfield also include moving a defender forward.

Phil Neville, Jamie Carragher and Ledley King have all played in that position for England but the success of Hargreaves since the World Cup has proved it is a job best done by a specialist.

The puts Parker in the driving seat, possibly ahead of Michael Carrick, who likes to sit deep in midfield but does not have the same tackling prowess as Hargreaves.

King's knee injury, which has ruled him out of McClaren's first three games in charge, has flared up this week and he is doubtful.

Carragher and Gary Neville should be recalled after missing the games against Andorra and Macedonia through injury and McClaren is sure to consider the form and fitness of Jonathan Woodgate since his move to Middlesbrough.

Stewart Downing hopes to be fit for England duty despite missing three Boro game with a groin injury.

Rooney's return is not in doubt and McClaren will be delighted to see the striker when his squad meet in Manchester next week.

The Manchester United star has missed the last two games through suspension and was ruled out of McClaren's first game against Greece with a groin strain.

Rooney is expected to go straight back into the team against Macedonia, at Old Trafford a week on Saturday, and link up with Peter Crouch.

McClaren may opt to send Darren Bent back into the England under-21 squad for their play-off against Germany next week.

The England boss has won his first three games in the hotseat.

A 4-0 friendly victory against Greece was followed by a 5-0 win at home to Andorra and a 1-0 success in Macedonia.

The Three Lions play Macedonia again before they travel to Zagreb to face Croatia in what will be one of the toughest games of the qualifying group.

Frank Lampard is on course to win his 50th cap in Croatia.