Despite an often tempestuous relationship with fans and past concerns over his temperament, Wayne Rooney has received the symbolically-prestigious honour of captaining England.
Taking over the leadership of an inexperienced squad that is recovering from the national team’s worst-ever World Cup, Rooney knows the rebuilding process requires unity.
“I hope that I will have the full backing of the fans,” Rooney said Thursday. “I am their type of player once I am on that pitch.”
Rooney is no stranger to controversy, though, including indiscretions about his personal life that have left the Manchester United player frustrated and have led to flare-ups.
“He has that baggage with him,” England coach Roy Hodgson said. “And he will have to accept that as a further part of the pressure.”
The appointment was no surprise. Goalkeeper Joe Hart aside, Rooney was the only realistic option to assume the captain’s armband from Steven Gerrard, who retired from international duty after England’s first-round exit from the World Cup. Rooney was also recently handed the United captain’s armband by new manager Louis van Gaal.
“Wayne is an obvious choice for his honesty, commitment to the cause, his experience,” Hodgson said at Wembley Stadium. “He’s prepared to accept the pressures the England captaincy brings.”
England needs to regain international credibility in qualifying for the 2016 European Championship, which begins on Sept. 8 at Switzerland. To prepare, there is a friendly against Norway at Wembley on Wednesday. Four players were called up for England for the first time on Thursday: defenders Calum Chambers and Danny Rose, and midfielders Jack Colback and Fabian Delph
The most experienced player in the squad is the 28-year-old Rooney with his 40 goals in 95 England appearances.
Rooney has emerged as one of England’s few leaders, growing in stature and confidence. But despite winning every major honour with Manchester United — from the Premier League to the Champions League — Rooney has never come close to collecting silverware with his country.
“I will not look on my England career as a success unless we win something and that is my attitude to playing football,” Rooney said. “There is no point turning up unless we believe we can win.”
Although Rooney broke his World Cup goal drought at his third competition in June, England went out in the group stage with only one point.
Far more was expected after announcing himself on the international scene with four goals at Euro 2004 as an 18-year-old forward. He also has also distinguished himself in the wrong way in an England shirt.
The 2006 World Cup campaign was remembered for his red card against Portugal and four years later Rooney sarcastically sneered into a camera after a draw with Algeria: “Nice to see the home fans boo you. That’s what you call loyal supporters.”
But Rooney appears to have won over fans by showing his commitment to the cause in a country where expectations for the national team far exceed the prospects of success.
“It’s wrong of me to read too much into the past and any misdemeanours he might have had in that time,” Hodgson said “In the two years he has been with me I have had no reason to question anything about him — his desire, his commitment.”
At Euro 2016, Rooney will be hoping to become only the second England captain to lift a major trophy after Booby Moore at the 1966 World Cup, but just reaching the later rounds would be a sign of progress.
Qualifying for the final tournament in France shouldn’t be a major challenge, with the tournament newly-expanded to 24 in the 54-nation UEFA region. The biggest test in Group E is England’s first opponent: Switzerland.
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Calum Chambers (Arsenal), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Danny Rose (Tottenham), John Stones (Everton)
Midfielders: Jack Colback (Newcastle), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Andros Townsend (Tottenham), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Liverpool), WayneRooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)