Greaves: Crouch should be first on team sheet

Former England striker Jimmy Greaves does not believe that Aston Villa's Emile Heskey is worthy of a place in the Three Lions' starting line-up against Algeria on Saturday.

Manager Fabio Capello favoured the burly Heskey in qualifying but Greaves, who amassed 44 goals in 57 games for his country and competed in two World Cups, has spoken of his desire to see England start with two goal threats in attack.

“I wouldn’t start with Heskey. Goalscoring is all about statistics – the guy who should be in the team is the one who, statistically, has scored more goals per game,” Greaves told exclusively.

And the former Spurs striker, 70, is insistent that Wayne Rooney’s partner throughout the World Cup in South Africa needs to be Peter Crouch.

“In my mind Crouch has to be, pretty much, number one on the team sheet given his goalscoring record.”

Of the three forwards who may join Rooney on the front line, the gangly Crouch has the best goals record, with 21 in 38 games.

Heskey and Jermain Defoe, however, have netted just 18 times between them in a total of 98 matches.

Challenging the argument that Heskey’s bruising, clobbering style gives Rooney – perceived by many as the key to England’s World Cup chances – the space to perform at his most devastating best, Greaves said: “Do you really play one man just to make another player play? Not for me you don’t. It’s the player’s responsibility to play well whoever he plays with.”

Greaves, who was England’s star player in ’66 before he was famously injured in the final group game against France, also believes that Rooney’s enthusiasm for tracking back should be curbed. And going forward, he feels that the prodigious Manchester United striker should be given a free role.

“I’d let Rooney do what he likes. I would say: “Look, when we’re in the opponents’ half, you do what you like son. I don’t want to see you back in our half. I don’t want you tackling the winger and everyone clapping you, because that’s not your job.”

“Rooney’s at his best when you don’t tie him down – when you don’t give him a zone or a responsibility. Give him a free role. Put Crouch up there who can trouble defences with his height and, most crucially, with his goalscoring record and you go with that.”

Greaves, meanwhile, has questioned the decision to strip Chelsea's John Terry of the England captaincy. The former striker, who started his career at Stamford Bridge, thought that Terry was unfortunate to lose the armband.

“We’re talking about a situation which happens on a day-to-day basis and, again, it was media-driven. I don’t think it was a big enough sin for Terry to lose the captaincy.”

By Jonathan Gilbert

Follow on Twitter
Join on Facebook