Rooney poised for return to England squad

September 29, 2006

Wayne Rooney will return to the England squad today at the expense of Darren Bent.

Charlton striker Bent has been named by Peter Taylor in the under-21 squad to face Germany in the two-legged European Championship play-off.

He makes way for Rooney, who is available for the senior team's 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.

Bent, who has scored eight in 12 games for the under-21s, was on the bench for England games against Andorra and Macedonia last month but was not used.

This will be the first time Steve McClaren has been able to call on Rooney since taking over as manager after the World Cup finals.

McClaren has trickier decisions to replace injury victims Owen Hargreaves and Aaron Lennon, when he names his squad this 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.

McClaren is unlikely to pick Cole with no match practice and Liverpool's Jermaine Pennant has a chance of his first call-up to the squad 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.

Sven-Goran Eriksson dropped Parker onto the standby 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 that 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 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 games 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.

Andrew Johnson and Jermain Defoe are likely to make up a quartet of strikers.