Wayne Rooney is simply irreplaceable, insists England captain John Terry
13 October 2009 05:03
England captain John Terry has branded Wayne Rooney "irreplaceable" but challenged England's young strikers to stake a claim for a World Cup spot in the 's final qualifier against Belarus.
Wayne Rooney controls the ball during England's 1-0 defeat in Ukraine at the Dnipro Arena
The one and only: Wayne Rooney controls the ball during England's 1-0 defeat in Ukraine at the Dnipro Arena
Rooney is absent from the Wembley game after suffering a calf strain in the weekend defeat in Ukraine despite turning in another sparkling performance for Fabio Capello's side.
It will be the first time he will be absent for a competitive game during the Capello era.
Terry recognises Rooney possesses that extra quality which means England can ill afford to be without the Manchester United star when they board the plane for the finals in South Africa in June.
But he is urging the fringe players to grasp the opportunity his absence has thrown up with Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor - who is 23 today - likely to start after an excellent beginning to the current campaign.
Terry said: "We have missed Wayne in big tournaments. When we have been at tournaments, he has picked up an injury and a suspension.
"Is he the one that is irreplaceable? I think so. I think we have seem him mature as a man and as a player in the last one or two years, grow up and take a lot of responsibility.
England captain John Terry speaks to the press at London Colney
High praise: England captain John Terry speaks to the press at London Colney
"I think before he lost his head on a couple of occasions and he has learnt from that and thankfully we are not seeing that side of him.
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"We are seeing the real Wayne Rooney and he is one of the best with the problems he caused. He is in great goalscoring form for England and Manchester United. He has been the heartbeat of our qualifying campaign."
Terry added: "This is a chance to play without him and the manager to try maybe one or two other players up front and give the other players a chance.
"In the Germany game 12 months ago, there were positive signs when we had players missing. Gabby Agbonlahor came in and did really well and Shaun Wright-Phillips also.
"This is another opportunity for other players to come in and prove themselves. It is another chance for players to maybe cement their place on the plane to the World Cup."
Terry believes Capello's insistence on players, proven or unproven, to perform at their best should give the ones currently on the fringe the chance to show they can be part of the 2010 squad.
Chelsea team-mates Frank Lampard (left) and John Terry stretch during an England training session at London Colney
Being prepared: Chelsea team-mates Frank Lampard (left) and John Terry stretch during an England training session at London Colney
He said: "The fringe players should feel they have got a chance still. The manager has shown that. Even the players who are playing regularly for England feel under threat for their places.
"If we are not performing at club level or this level, the manager is strong enough to drop us or not select us and that goes for everyone in the squad.
"He has shown that previously so, for everyone on the fringe of or not in the squad at the moment, there should be that real desire in their stomachs to get to the World Cup."
Terry is filmed during an England press conference
Caught on camera: Terry is filmed during an England press conference
Every England player who has been involved in the squad during Capello's reign has been invited to attend tomorrow night's game including the likes of Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves.
Terry said: "The manager has invited every player involved in the campaign to the game which is great and shows the unity of the squad as well.
"That is important because everyone has played a part and it will be nice for everyone to do that together."
Terry reiterated the support of the squad for Rio Ferdinand after a poor performance against Ukraine as he stressed the need to cut out mistakes.
He said: "We have looked at things when we have made mistakes, not just the defensive errors, and the manager won't leave anything unturned.
"I don't want to get into the issue of Rio but the other players are 1005 behind him. We all make mistakes.
"He is a massive player in the squad and so important to us. He is the one who can't wait for this game and is looking forward to put his performance in. His drive and desire to win is massive."
Terry admitted he also understood striker Emile Heskey having to consider his future with Aston Villa because he is afraid of losing his England spot through not playing regular football. He said: "I understand that. Players want to play week in and week out. Hopefully he won't be playing next week for Villa against Chelsea.
"He is a fantastic player and really hard to play against. People go on about his goalscoring but he brings an awful lot more to the pitch than just that.
"His link up play is fantastic. It is difficult for him. They have John Carew there as well. I totally understand it. Emile has been very open about things.
"I am sure inside he wants to fight for his place and get back in the Villa side."