England manager Fabio Capello will assess Wayne Rooney today before he makes a final decision on whether his leading player, the subject of allegations about his private life, is in the right state of mind to play in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland tomorrow.
Rooney will travel with the squad today despite the allegations in the News of the World that he paid a prostitute for sex during his wife Coleen's pregnancy. In the Capello camp, there are concerns about Rooney's suitability to play in such an important game. The memory of his poor performances at the World Cup finals is still raw and there is not the certainty that Rooney can simply play through his current difficulties.
Capello and his staff knew on Saturday night that the story was to come out yesterday. It is not clear when Rooney knew that the revelations were about to be published but he was not one of those who met with family yesterday, instead playing golf at the squad's Grove hotel in Hertfordshire.
The story is the latest in a series about the private lives of England's leading players which have contributed to the increasing sense of a siege mentality within the squad. Rooney has been the subject of similar allegations before; later admitting that he visited a prostitute in the early stages of his relationship with his now-wife Coleen.
There are considerable worries that the stories could affect Rooney's fragile temperament on the pitch. He played a key role in England's 4-0 win over Bulgaria on Friday night and it goes without saying that Capello needs his best player in the side for tomorrow's Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland.
Rooney played a full part in training yesterday morning at Arsenal's London Colney headquarters but managed to avoid the photographers waiting outside to take his picture. The Football Association said that Rooney would fly with the squad to Basle today. "It's business as usual," an FA spokesman said.
The stories yesterday also included damaging allegations from Jenny Thompson, the woman in question, that Rooney was a smoker. These follow the publication of pictures of him smoking and urinating in public last month after a night out in Manchester. The erosion of Rooney's fortunes since his ankle injury in March against Bayern Munich, which curtailed the best run of form of his career, has been dramatic.
When Rooney spoke to the English press before the friendly against Egypt in March, he said fatherhood had changed him: "When I first joined United I used to go out to nightclubs but it is very rare I would go out to a nightclub now. It changes with age. I made that decision myself. I got into a few things that I shouldn't have and I tried to change that. I am settled at home now. It's good. I am enjoying my life with my family."
He was in a different mood when he last spoke in an official capacity as an England player between the United States and Algeria matches at the World Cup finals. Noticeably more defensive and discomfited by questions then, there will inevitably now be questions about whether his fear of disclosure about his private life affected his performances.
Capello will talk today in Switzerland about Rooney's situation for the first time. Yesterday, it was left to James Milner to deal with the difficult questions about Rooney's latest spot of bother. As a teetotaller who has never found himself at the wrong end of the tabloid newspaper, Milner was a safe bet for the FA, albeit one who would find it hard to empathise with his team-mate's problems.
Milner, 24, who admitted that the biggest challenge he faced to his self-control was not playing golf "too close" to a game, said scrutiny of footballers' lives was an accepted part of the job. "You have to enjoy your life I suppose but I'm just playing my football and doing as well as I can," he said. "It would help if your life wasn't scrutinised but that's football, you're in a privileged position to be doing what you're doing so there are highs and lows.
"Whatever game England play – I'm a player, but I'm a fan as well – I want the best possible team out there for England. You want your best players on the field. You saw on Friday night what a player Wayne Rooney is and hopefully he can go out and get a hat-trick [tomorrow]."
Milner was unequivocal about the standards he believes are expected of modern footballers. "Obviously there are a lot of people who watch football games," he said. "Thousands come every week and there are kids with your name on the back of their shirt. They obviously look up to you and love what you do. You try to set standards on and off the field."
The injury picked up by Michael Dawson on Friday night looks like it will sideline the defender for three months. Goalkeeper Scott Carson will attend a funeral on Tuesday and will not fly to Switzerland today. The England under-21 international Scott Loach will take his place.