Wayne Rooney has expressed a desire to feature in England's friendly against Sweden next month despite Roy Hodgson's inclination to rest the Manchester United forward given his club's cluttered fixture list between now and Christmas.
England will visit Stockholm on 14 November for the inaugural fixture in the Friends Arena, the largest stadium in the Nordic countries with a capacity of 50,000, with Hodgson seeking to blood younger players in his team's last game of the year. The national manager, who started his coaching career in Sweden at Halmstad and has enjoyed spells with Oddevold, Orebro and Malmo, is keen his team for the friendly does not appear disrespectfully understrength, with Rooney's eagerness to play opening the possibility he could captain the side.
"Of course, you want to play," said the striker when asked about the game next month. "I want to play all the games, if that's possible. Hopefully I can stay in good form for Manchester United and the [England] manager will pick me. We're used to playing Saturday and Wednesday, Saturday and Tuesday, at club level. We've been doing that for years. So a game for your country is certainly something you want to play in."
With the exception of the midweek international fixture, United could now potentially play in every midweek until the end of the year, depending on their progress beyond Chelsea in the Capital One Cup on 31 October, with the Sweden friendly sandwiched between Premier League games against Aston Villa and Norwich. More daunting is the buildup to those fixtures, with Sir Alex Ferguson's team to play Chelsea and Arsenal in the league and Braga in the Champions League, ahead of the trip to Villa Park on 10 November.
"We have to be careful," said Hodgson. "I don't intend to go to Stockholm with a weak team. It is a massive occasion for Sweden, and they like me over there – or at least they used to, I'm not sure if they still do. And it would also be nice to finish the year unbeaten. On the other hand, I'm also conscious of the fact that a lot of players, the [Steven] Gerrards, the Rooneys and the [Michael] Carricks will be right up in the middle of European football as well, and I don't know how much I can bash them.
"But I would certainly like to see one or two different players, with a view to February and March, and the Stockholm game gives me that opportunity."
Those will include the Arsenal full-backs Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs, Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross as well as Chelsea's Ryan Bertrand and Daniel Sturridge, fitness permitting. Hodgson has ruled out any possibility of selecting Jack Wilshere, the Arsenal midfielder whose career has been interrupted by a 15-month injury absence, until he has proved form and fitness with his club side.
Hodgson has selected 43 different players in his squads for the 11 games of his tenure, using 35 of them. "I don't think it would be a fair criticism to say we've chopped and changed around," he added. "It's more a case of getting a look at several players, some of the younger ones, to see what they can do and see if they can start to worry some of the players who are up in the 80- to 90-cap [bracket] and ask the question: 'Would you be better off trying to win the game with me than the players who've been around for the last six or seven years?'"
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © nasmac