DUBAI // Wayne Rooney holds the key to England's World Cup success, according to Matthew Le Tissier, the former international, who is tipping the Manchester United striker to be one of the stars of next month's tournament. Le Tissier, whose flair and outstanding individual ability enabled him to enjoy a reputation similar to Rooney's as one of the top attractions of the English game, said: "I think Wayne is everybody's shining light. I'm hoping that his injury problems towards the end of the season work in England's favour. The fact that he hasn't been able to train as much as usual in the past couple of months might make him fresher than he would have been had he gone through the whole season injury free. That's a big factor going into a demanding summer tournament like this one.
"If you are going to win a World Cup you need players who can change a game when things are not looking good and Wayne is certainly one of those," added Le Tissier, who in his heyday as Southampton's shining star was regarded as a having the potential to be a world-class player, only to fall well short of expectations in collecting a meagre haul of eight senior caps. "He was a worthy Footballer of the Year [elected by the British Football Writers Association] because his form up to his injury was the best of his life. And he was also a worthy winner of the players' award [voted for by the Professional Footballers' Association]."
Fabio Capello, the England manager, is going to have a difficult task whittling down England's provisional squad of 30 players to a travelling party of 23 to be announced on May 30. "Of the fringe players, I reckon Jamie Carragher [the Liverpool defender] is the least vulnerable," added Le Tissier, who was visiting Dubai to play in last weekend's Big Five-O golf tournament, which raised more than Dh1million for children's charities.
"Cappello would not have persuaded him out of international retirement if he was not going to take him to the finals. I think Tom Huddlestone [one of six Tottenham players selected] will be first on the list of casualties, while Shaun Wright-Phillips [Manchester City] and Darren Bent [Sunderland] are the most likely forwards to miss out. "One of the left-sided defenders will be surplus to requirements which means there will be no place for either Leighton Baines [Everton] or Stephen Warnock [Aston Villa] while the midfield trimming down is likely to depend on the fitness levels of certain players [Manchester City's Gareth Barry was included despite a serious ankle injury]."
Le Tissier, who suffered his own World Cup disappointment when Glenn Hoddle omitted him from England's 1998 squad, urged Capello to take a chance on the exciting talents of Manchester City's Adam Johnson. "I have been impressed with his recent form and I hope he gets into the final 23," he said. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org