Rooney shapes up to take on the world
Two fitness trainers get England striker in peak condition to finally deliver on the biggest stage
Wayne Rooney has taken two fitness trainers with him on holiday to Portugal in an attempt finally to take the World Cup by storm.
The striker was named in the England manager Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad yesterday despite missing the last three Manchester United games with a groin injury.
Hodgson insisted there were no fitness worries over Rooney and revealed the 28-year-old had taken it on himself to ensure he was in peak condition.
Rooney was criticised for going on holiday before Euro 2012 to Las Vegas, where he was pictured smoking and drinking. After serving a two-game ban, Rooney scored against Ukraine at the European Championship but appeared sluggish and short of fitness.
Rooney failed to score a single goal at the 2010 World Cup after going into the tournament with an ankle injury. It later emerged he had struggled with problems in his personal life.
Four years earlier, Rooney was taken to the 2006 World Cup after being rushed back from a metatarsal injury and failed to score or produce his best form.
Possibly thinking this will be his last chance to shine at a World Cup, Rooney will be joined by two trainers on holiday in Portugal, to where he flew last night.
England players have this week off before the squad meet up next Monday for a five-day training camp in Vale do Lobo in Portugal, but Rooney is not planning to put his feet up with a beer or a cigarette.
"He's going this week with two fitness trainers," said Hodgson. "I don't know exactly who, but Manchester United fitness coach Tony Strudwick has been in touch with us. He wanted to know about the pitch in Vale do Lobo.
"This is a free week, a week where players go off. Many do go to Portugal, where they have homes.
"Wayne is so determined to be up and running when we get there on the 19th. He's going on holiday to Portugal. He's not alone. A few of them are going out to Portugal, that's where they go on their week off. They don't all go to Dubai and Las Vegas."
Asked whether Rooney's decision to work on his fitness in Portugal, rather than holidaying in Vegas, was a reflection of his improved attitude, Hodgson said: "His attitude is that he's desperate to be up and running on the 19th. I'm not as desperate for him to be fully fit on the 19th.
"I'm thinking more of the 14th of June for our first World Cup game against Italy, but it's still quite laudable that that's the way he thinks and I'm not trying to dissuade him. But if I do get there on the 19th and the fitness people say he needs two or three days, I won't be shedding any tears."
Rooney has enjoyed a hugely successful career at United and has scored 38 goals in 89 appearances for England. But he is desperate finally to perform at a World Cup.
"If it's up to Wayne and wanting to do it, there's no doubt that we have nothing to fear with Wayne in that respect," said Hodgson. "I'm more than happy for the players to forget football for a week and get mentally prepared for the weeks ahead, but Wayne has decided to continue his programme so, when we meet up on the 19th, he'll be able to join in straight away. Attitude and desire. Has he got the ability? Yes he has.
"Let's hope he can show the form that makes Wayne Rooney what he is."
While Hodgson insists Rooney's fitness is not a fear, he admits that the shoulder injury Phil Jones is carrying will need to be assessed during the Portugal training camp.
Everton's John Stones and Liverpool's Jon Flanagan are on Hodgson's standby list and will travel with the 23-man squad to Portugal, with Stones in line to replace Jones if the United man suffers a setback.
"We wouldn't have accepted or selected anyone in this 23 if we seriously thought we'd be on tenterhooks with regards to his fitness," said Hodgson.
"I rely on the doctors and physios at the various clubs, and our doctors.
"The only one who seriously poses a question is Phil Jones. He had his shoulder injury a week ago today. Everyone tells me, and my research tells me – I had the same injury with two of my players at Fulham – that he will be back, fit and playing. But we can't guarantee that.
"As a result, I will be taking Stones and Flanagan with us on this trip.
"Stones will be the replacement for Jones if, by June 2, we are not confident Jones will be fit.
"I'm convinced the others are now fully fit and have the advantage they haven't had the effects of the end of the Premier League season and have had rest."
The Southampton duo of Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw are part of Hodgson's 23-man squad and are the subject of bids from Liverpool and Manchester United respectively.
Lallana and Shaw both want to leave St Mary's, but Southampton are determined to land a world-record fee for a left-back for Shaw, who they rate at £30m. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
England World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Celtic), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion).
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Chris Smalling (Manchester United).
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United).