SIR Geoff Hurst believes Wayne Rooney is not at the same level as World Cup-winner Bobby Charlton, even if he surpasses his England goalscoring record this week.

Rooney needs just two more goals to become the country’s greatest ever goalscorer, yet there are continued question marks over his place in history, both on the national and international stage.

A recent hat-trick in Manchester United’s Champions League qualifier against Club Bruges took the pressure off a little on the home front.

But the former Everton striker is in the middle of a barren spell in the Premier League, having not scored in 10 matches, straddling the end of last season and the first four matches of the current campaign.

Debate continues to rage over Rooney’s best position, whether he can carry the strike force as a true number nine or needs a more conventional front man to play off.

It seems a bizarre line of argument considering the Liverpudlian’s record.

He has scored 48 goals in 105 appearances for England, compared with Charlton’s 49 in 106, and has even scored eight fewer in friendlies than his fellow Old Trafford legend.

His goals-per-game ratio for the Red Devils is also just less than one in two, hitting the net 234 times in 476 appearances in all competitions, which compares favourably to Charlton’s tally of 249 goals in 758 appearances.

Hurst makes the point that Charlton reached his goal mark for England and United while playing as a central midfielder, which makes his tally, at international level at least, more impressive.

But the only reason there is any lingering doubt about Rooney’s best position is that he has been asked to play so many roles over the years.

The 29-year-old has continued to weigh in with important goals for club and country throughout his career, even when he has been used wide on the left or as a central midfielder.

That adaptability, or at least his willingness to do a job for his team, may well have cost Rooney a sack-full of goals.

Had he just concentrated on putting the ball in the net, like Gary Lineker, rather than tracking back or dropping deep to link play, the England and United forward would probably have stormed past Charlton’s record years ago.

But Rooney’s selfless attitude on the field of play, and his ability to change his role on the pitch to suit the needs of the team, all contribute to the player he has become.

The truth is that football players are rarely judged fairly while they are still playing, it is only when they hang up their boots and nostalgia kicks in that their true legend is formed.

There is no doubt to me that Charlton and Rooney are both England greats and will be talked about in the same breath for years to come.

But as Hurst also notes, the big difference in their careers is the lack of a World Cup-winner's medal on Rooney’s CV.

The hat-trick hero of 1966 believes that means Charlton will always be regarded as the best England goalscorer, but I think it can also be used to argue in Rooney’s favour.

The fact he has never played in a team capable of winning the World Cup surely makes Rooney’s scoring feats all the more remarkable.


Views from the sports desk

IT was sad to hear this week that the famous WACA cricket ground in Australia will be hosting its last Ashes clash in 2017 in preparation for a move to a new 60,000 venue in Perth.

I always think it’s sad when famous old stadia are lost to big matches – even though it is the way of the world.

Like Burnden Park, the WACA has been witness to some classic matches and hopefully it will bow out with a few more yet.

Then again, England’s record at the Western Australia ground is nothing to write home about with just one win in 13 Tests so maybe it will be a good switch!

David Pye

WALES could make history both on and off the pitch this week

For the first time ever the Dragons moved above England in yesterday's FIFA rankings with Chris Coleman's team staying in ninth place and Roy Hodgson’s side slipping two places to 10th.

And with Gareth Bale’s team on the brink of appearing at Euro 2016 – their first major tournament since 1958 – it got me thinking of another Welsh wing wizard in Ryan Giggs.

He might have enjoyed a more glittering club career with Manchester United but never graced an international tournament.

It’s a shame their careers never overlapped, with the duo only playing three games together. They could have made a formidable partnership.

Claire Cameron

WITH just two weeks to go until the Rugby World Cup, I am concerned about the lack of flair players set to grace the tournament.

In previous years we had the pace and balance of Jason Robinson, Brian O'Driscoll jinking through the gaps and the magical handling of Shane Williams in the 2003 quarter-final, setting up a try for Stephen Jones.

But the decision to leave out Danny Cipriani from the England squad makes me wonder who will provide the moments of brilliance on the world stage this time round.

Robert Kelly