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Andy Gray: Heads up Wayne Rooney! In the air he has Peter Crouch beat

02 Mar 2010 01:03:15

Andy Gray: Heads up Wayne Rooney! In the air he has Peter Crouch beat

Former Aston Villa, Everton and Rangers striker and now Sky Sports expert ANDY GRAY, who was a powerhouse in the air, analyses Wayne Rooney's heading skills... The amount of footballers who can't head a ball never ceases to amaze me. I think if you went through Thierry Henry's goals during his record-breaking spell for Arsenal, you will probably find only two or three headers. That is staggering. Think how many more he could have scored if he had that string to his bow. If you're a striker and you can't head, you're denying yourself 10 or 15 goals a season - as Wayne Rooney is now finding out. Wayne has improved dramatically. I heard about 18 months ago that he had started doing a little bit extra in training to improve his technique - and you can see he is reaping the dividends. Now he's playing up top and not in that withdrawn role on the left, he is in the box far more often and he is giving himself far more of an opportunity to score with headers.  Well executed: Wayne Rooney's headed goals against Milan (above) and Villa (below right) were looped efforts, showing technique that impressed past master Andy Gray Look at the brilliant header he scored against AC Milan a fortnightago. He could not have scored that a year ago. It's from practisingover and over again. I imagine Wayne has been having someone feed himball after ball at training - all at different heights - in order toget better. I used to spend hours and hours doing that with the coaching staff and it used to help me a great deal. I don't think Wayne has been doing that as much as I did but he's definitely practised. He couldn't have scored all the goals he has otherwise. Learning to head is about all types of different headers - where you are standing and the pace of the ball makes all the difference. With the headers Wayne scored against Milan and Aston Villa, they had to be headed back from where they had come and looped over the goalkeeper while the one in the Carling Cup against Manchester City or the one that hit the post on Sunday just needed some direction as the cross had such pace on it. When crosses come in from the right - like in the Carling Cup final - he looks comfortable but he is not as assured with balls from the left. The right is his strong side and, just as you do with a strong and a weak foot, you find it easier to head on one side rather than the other. It's all to do with the balance of the body. ROONEY IS NEW HEAD BOYWayne Rooney is the top Premier League goalscorer with headers this season. He has scored five in the League and even added another in the 2-1 Carling Cup final win over Aston Villa on Sunday. These are the top five head masters:Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 5Tim Cahill (Everton) 4Carlton Cole (West Ham) 4Kenwyne Jones (Sunderland) 4Louis Saha (Everton) 4 Timing is probably the absolute key. You just need to be a fraction off with your jump and it all goes wrong, while some players seem to have almost finished their header before the ball has even arrived and the ball just brushes off them and drifts away harmlessly. Worse is when you see players shut their eyes and then they miss the ball totally. Height doesn't really matter. I was 5ft 11in and Wayne is 5ft 10in. It's all about finding space. You don't have to be 6ft 7in like Peter Crouch. In fact, I'd say Wayne is a better header of the ball than Peter because often tall people don't work hard enough at their heading. The supply he is getting from the right is brilliant, too. He and Antonio Valencia clearly enjoy playing together and have an understanding. With Valencia's supply, Wayne can score 10 or more goals a season with his head from now on.  ANDY GRAY is a football expert and commentator for Sky Sports' live and high definition coverage of the Barclays Premier League. For further information on high definition or to upgrade to Sky+HD call: 08442 410 564.  Head masters: Sportsmail remembers the strikers who used their head like RooneyDon't boo 'great leader' John Terry, pleads Wayne Rooney as Chelsea bad boy prepares to face WembleyRooney insists he'll be fit for England despite aggravating knee at WembleyManchester United hero Wayne Rooney focused on more medals as he closes in on Cristiano Ronaldo's goal recordMANCHESTER UNITED FC


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