If Marcus Rashford makes England’s final 23 man cut, he certainly will not be the first wildcard taken to a major tournament.
In recent years, the respective managers of England have included an 18 year old Wayne Rooney and a 17 year old Theo Walcott in their squads; of which both made contrasting impressions.
It is hard to say Rashford has had an impressive debut season as a United first team player, considering he didn’t make his first senior appearance until the end of February.
In what has been a whirlwind five months which has seen the 18 year old striker score eight goals including a double against Arsenal on his full Premier League debut and the winner away against local rivals Manchester City and a peach of goal against West Ham to get Manchester United into the FA Cup semi final there is already a strong argument that he should not only go to the Euros, but he should be starting for Roy Hodgson.
Unlike both Rooney and Walcott, there hasn’t been that much hype surrounding Rashford as a young teenager playing youth football – so this isn’t a day the nation has been waiting for.
From very early ages, there was belief both Rooney and Walcott were the next big thing in our game which added huge pressure to their game.
Six years prior to Rooney it was Michael Owen. This type of situation is extremely common for England.
Of course everybody at Old Trafford was aware of the ability Rashford has; as well as a few dedicated fans that follow academy football, but in terms of the type of media hype which seemed to follow Rooney around Everton and Walcott around Southampton, Rashford has had a fairly subdued rise which could work in his favour.
There were arguments against taking both Rooney and Walcott to major tournaments at such a young age. Could they adapt to international football? Could they handle the mental challenge of being away?
At Euro 2004, Rooney was chucked in from the start and caused absolute mayhem for the French defence in England’s opening match. If not for a missed Beckham penalty and a late Zinedine Zidane masterclass, England would have won the match and progressed from the group unbeaten.
Rooney netted four times and although was eventually ruled out through injury, played a huge role in England reaching the quarter finals, proving a huge success.
Two years later, Theo Walcott was selected to go to World Cup 2006 and did not get near the pitch.
It is not uncommon for squad players to fail to make an appearance at a tournament as there is limited playing time – but it seemed a hugely wasted opportunity for not only Theo, but the strikers whose place he did take, who could have been chucked in to make a difference.
Whilst Rashford certainly isn’t Rooney, Walcott, or even Michael Owen; and the England set-up is far different to what it was all those years ago, the big question does remain over this year’s wildcard and it is not if he will sink or swim, but will Roy have the courage to give him that chance to begin with? After a goal seconds into his debut last week against Australia, Hodgson may have to bow to public pressure or face the backlash if he doesn’t…