England 4 Lithuania 0: Wayne Rooney still the king, even if Prince Harry seems a worthy heir

England 4 Lithuania 0: Wayne Rooney still the king, even if Prince Harry seems a worthy heir

27/03/2015 at 22:02Updated

He scores, he smiles, he runs to a corner flag and he smiles some more. With the white of Tottenham Hotspur and now in the white of England, those pearly whites are a dazzling emblem of a season so outrageously good that it would be deemed fictional reading in an old Roy of the Rovers comic strip. Or even an old Roy Hodgson coaching manual. And so would Harry Kane's understated reaction.

"

PIC OF THE NIGHT: Harry Kane and his England future in one photo. pic.twitter.com/Rt0e4fet9g— BBC Sporf (@BBCSporf) March 27, 2015"

"Not bad," he said flanked by an equally buoyant Wayne Rooney, who himself looked more delirous than when he last spotted Phil Bardsley. Harry Kane is football's Harry Styles with plenty of style. What a pop star. What a riot.

Having watched Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling, himself scoring a first international goal, soften up a poor and often oafish Lithuania side, Kane scored England's fourth goal moments after replacing the irrepressible Rooney on 72 minutes. This all happened inside 80 seconds of Kane's first competitive match for the English national side at the new Wembley Stadium.

If Carlsberg did England debuts, and all that jazz.

Kane scores goals for fun, sports a well-heeled blond quiff of Alfie proportions that proved elusive for Rooney as long as a decade ago and sings Blighty's national anthem with as much sure-footedness as Prince Harry, but Wazza remains the undisputed king of England under Friday night lights.

Or so we thought until Kane, a rapidly maturing 21-year-old, reminded the crowd that he may just be the real deal. Just like Rooney was at the age of 18 with four goals during the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal.

In the first 45 minutes of England's first encounter with a bedazzled and limp Lithuania lot, Rooney shone as brightly as the vast Wembley floodlights.

He knocked a shot against a post, headed into the net and nodded against the bar as the past, present and future of England's national team appeared to form a perfect symmetry.

In young Harry's case, you surely couldn't ignore 29 goals - make that 30 now. But if you are Hodgson, you could.

Kane's run of form could not buy him a start. Little did we know that Roy was in on the act to keep the brimming crowd waiting for his latest goal later on. Only six weeks before a General Election, Hodgson proved that he remains very much a sporting conservative.

"

50 more touches and Harry Kane will beat Sir Bobby Charlton's goalscoring record.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 27, 2015"

Tradition, reliability and loyalty: all hallmarks of Hodgson's time-served stint as a coach in several outposts abroad and at home that has carried him to this juncture.

Good old Roy is multilingual, but remains reliably English, ranging from singing God Save the Queen with admirable gusto to his promo jacket with the name of English car manufacturer Vauxhall scribbed across it.

Hodgson is a reliable football engineer. While these qualifiers may be more of a procession for England, it must give Roy a warm glow during his infrequent tube trips to Wembley Way knowing that another major finals are on the horizon because of his way. England are up to seven straight wins since the World Cup farce in Brazil.

He was reluctant to call on Kane despite the weakness of opponents ranked 94th in the world. And he was right. Without his candour, Kane would have been deprived of his outlandish cameo that earned him a standing ovation from the 83,000 or so inside Wembley.

Rooney went about his business with remarkable regularity as Kane, a young man with a voracious appetite for learning, was given a rousing example in motion pictures of how you carry your club form into international environs.

Wayne Rooney scores England's first goal against Lithuania.

Kane's goal per game ratio is unbelievable in his maiden season for the senior side at White Hart Lane - 19 goals from 26 Premier League outings - but Rooney's antics representing England sets a target that comes with a large gulp for those aspiring strikers holding a treasure map.

Rooney's gold rush wearing the Three Lions shows no signs of cessation.

Only another 48 for Kane to catch Bobby Charlton, and probably a fair few more to tag Wayne, but the portents are hardly gloomy for the smiling assassin/kid.

As it was, Rooney's 47th goal for his country from 102 games leaves him two behind Charlton's all-time record of 49 and one adrift of Gary Lineker's contribution. Rooney has also helped himself to five of England's last eight goals.

There is every chance Rooney may overtake Sir Bobby before Harry runs away smiling to celebrate his second goal.

Fair enough, England's Euro 2016 qualifying campaign opponents may sound about as exciting as visiting Vilnius for a spot of sunbathing during the bleak mid-winter, but you can only swat away what is put in front of you. Including a Lithuania team whose strapping men looked better suited to farming and lifting heavy things than mixing it in such exalted company.

The most famous people emanating from Lithuania have probably never played football.

To those who find Rooney an ill fit for England, it is worth noting that he has been involved in 47.9% of Manchester United's goals this season. That is the best statistic of any player of any nationality in the Premier League. So much for the FA chairman Greg Dyke's air of desolation lamenting lack of home-grown talent in these parts.

As long as you have Wazza, you have hope.

Dyke was spotted almost guffawing when Kane's header hit the rigging from Sterling's cross. Maybe this act of doom and gloom, wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding the dearth of English talent should continue.

Rooney is only 29. He continues to score, but creates as much. His pass for Sterling's finish summed up the versatility of his work. In recent times of greater dismay, the United coach Louis van Gaal had him operating as a left-wing back last month when he was almost work-shadowing West Ham United's Kevin Nolan during one forgettable afternoon at the Boleyn Ground.

Not LVG's finest moment, but that memory is almost as astonishing as the overall thirst for this match.

When one considers how unfashionable England's national team has become in comparison to the all-conquering Premier League and its £5.136 billion television deal, it was phenomenal to sell out the national stadium to drink down this fare with as much enthusiasm as a pint of Spitfire after a hard day at the office. Neither Rooney nor Kane were about to misfire.

Why Wembley should find itself rammed full for such a match remains an item of engrossing mystery. A boxing rematch between Rooney and Phil Bardsley might have sold as many tickets as the football, but the evening provided an element of delightful surprise. Even if Kane is the Premier League's top scorer.

Switzerland, Estonia, Slovenia and San Marino have also been scalped as Hodgson's side moved onto 15 points from five games in Group E, the easiest qualifying section on paper and in practice.

Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling celebrate England's fourth goal in the 4-0 win over Lithuania.

Kane will be handed a start against Italy in Turin in a friendly on Tuesday having scored as a substitute here. With Welbeck and Sterling missing because of niggles, the issue is settled. There was no real need for England to look for Kane when Rooney and Welbeck were causing so much havoc in finalising their side's win prior to the break, but he was given the opportunity.

And he jumped at it to head into the net from Sterling's delivery with the Lithuania goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis failing miserably to keep it out.

Welbeck is officially the top scorer in European qualifying with six goals, but his effort for England's second goal would probably not have beaten Arlauskis until it took an unfortunate deflection with the visitors frequently marking empty spaces in their own box.

Suddenly the absence of the injured Daniel Sturridge does not seem so troublesome. Prince Harry is heir to King Wayne's throne, but England's form of footballing nobility bought more than goodwill with his latest smiling cameo.

Like Rooney, England can trust Harry Kane. He's one of our own. Good to know.

Desmond Kane

0
0