Former England winger Trevor Sinclair believes Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad lacks balance and is destined to fall short in France unless the “right formula” is found.
Sinclair also feels manager Hodgson’s insistence on fielding captain Wayne Rooney in a deep-lying attacking position, at the expense of younger players, will harm England’s prospects of reaching the final.
While rating the 111-cap striker as the least effective of England’s forward options, ex-West Ham player Sinclair urged Hodgson to adopt an effective formation before the Euros kick off next week.
Speaking to Press Association Sport while representing the Football Association and McDonald’s at a community football day in Penrith, Sinclair said: “I think we’ll go out in the knockout stages.
“I think we’ll go through the groups – it’s pretty difficult not to with the new format – but I just can’t see the balance at the moment.
“I’ve not been overly impressed with the performances, they’ve been a bit underwhelming and I think once we come up against better organised and more committed teams we could come unstuck.
“I just think that Roy as a manager is kind of half going for the youth because he obviously wants to get Wayne in the team.
“I just think that it’s unbalancing the group and that’s going to be our downfall unless he’s prepared to change it.”
England’s Group B campaign gets under way against Russia at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome on Saturday and Sinclair is worried that they have started going backwards over recent weeks.
After winning all 10 of their qualifying fixtures, and beating world champions Germany in a spring friendly, England have disappointed in warm-up matches against Turkey, Australia and Portugal.
“Thinking about the number of opportunities we’ve had to get it right going into a major tournament like this – impressive as we’ve been in the qualifiers – you would have thought we would know our system by now,” added Sinclair, who made his name at QPR in the 1990s.
“Obviously injuries happen and players are sometimes unavailable but it still seems that he’s just looking for that right formula.
“Let’s hope he finds it before we play the next game against Russia.”
Sinclair – included in the 2002 World Cup squad as a last-minute replacement for Danny Murphy – does not believe Manchester
United’s teenage striker Marcus Rashford is the missing link, however.
He said of the 18-year-old: “I wouldn’t think he’ll start Rashford because if you look at the strikers England have got, Rashford’s probably the fourth best out of the four or five strikers.
“Wayne being the least as he’s obviously playing in a midfield role.
“We have got strength up there and we just need to pick the right formation to fit the players.
“As yet, for me, (Hodgson’s) not found the balance that’s going to give the players the opportunity to express themselves and get the best out of each other as a team unit.”