By Martyn Herman
LONDON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Roy Hodgson is sanguine about the regular injury bulletins he will receive between now and next May but the England manager may pay extra attention to Wayne Rooney's wellbeing.
When fit and focussed Rooney is unquestionably England's key man and probably the first name Hodgson will write on his World Cup squad list for the June 12-July 13 finals in Brazil.
Yet injuries and disciplinary problems have meant that the 28-year-old, apart from Euro 2004, has not made an impact at major tournaments.
He flopped at the 2006 World Cup after recovering from a foot injury, missed several games in the ill-fated qualification campaign for Euro 2008 through injury and was ineffective and moody in South Africa in 2010.
At the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine, Rooney was suspended for two games after being sent off in the final qualifier, although he did score against Ukraine to help England reach the quarter-finals where they lost to Italy.
It is hardly a roll of honour for the 28-year-old but if Hodgson's England are to make any impact in Brazil, Rooney firing on all cylinders as he is doing at present will be vital.
"I'm very fortunate in that we've got senior players, of which he's one, who do have a big influence," Hodgson told reporters at a news conference to announce the Football Association's new four-year partnership with Mars Chocolate.
"A Wayne Rooney in this sort of form would be very good.
"He was no problem at all in the Euros. Our problem in the Euros was that unfortunately he had been suspended and when he came to us, he was training when the rest of them were playing matches. He was desperate to play.
"Unfortunately, when we did throw him in, you would say that he didn't live up to his reputation."
Rooney has scored 11 goals so far this season, including one in each of the World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland. He also netted both goals in United's 2-2 draw at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Hodgson could be excused if he wanted to wrap Rooney in cotton wool, but knows that he will just have to keep his fingers crossed like many other international managers.
"It's damned early for me," said Hodgson, who will fly to Brazil on Tuesday for Friday's World Cup draw.
"If you can give me the same guarantees in April and May. He is playing excellent at the moment, he really is playing so well and I have no reason to believe why that shouldn't continue week after week, match after match, all the way up to the World Cup.
"But we are all aware it can change. Therefore, I do tend to adopt a bit of a sanguine attitude towards it all.
"Before the Euros we put a group of players together who we thought 'this looks quite useful' then we lost three or four of them before we kicked off. That is always a risk.
"So when Daniel (Sturridge) gets injured now I suppose in one way I am sorry he can't play, but another part of me thinks 'better now than later.'"
Sturridge earned a ticking off from Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers when he declared himself fit to play for England against Germany in a friendly last month despite a dead leg.
Hodgson said it showed he could now "trust" the striker who had pulled out of the World Cup qualifier away to Ukraine in September with an injury.
"The good thing for me about that was that he did get out there," Hodgson said. "He has pulled out of a few matches with us for injury reasons.
"It was important for me to, if you like, test his resolve a little bit. I suppose you could argue we did put his resolve a little bit to the test. I might have been guilty of putting that resolve to the test, but I don't apologise for it.
"And I am delighted he did get out there. That means in future I will know I can trust him as an England player and he is not going to be playing when he feels like it."
The FA and Mars Chocolate aim to offer one million 'Just Play' opportunities over the next four years - for more information on Just Play in your area search 'Just Play' online or visit www.facebook.com/marsbar. (Editing by Rex Gowar)
- Sports & Recreation
- Wayne Rooney
- Roy Hodgson