Euro 2012: Wayne Rooney is back after his ban and claims there is 'no reason' why England cannot win Euros
WAYNE Rooney returns from suspension against Ukraine on Tuesday fuelled by a feeling that Roy Hodgson’s team can actually win Euro 2012. Bang goes England’s softly softly approach.
Wayne Rooney spoke superbly after training on Sunday, addressing frankly everything from his “good understanding” with Danny Welbeck, his respect for Andrei Shevchenko and how “visualisation” techniques help him prepare for games.
This was all very admirable and enlightening but the words that really leapt from Rooney’s lips were those shaping his endorsement of the Hodgson regime, and his confidence that 46 years of hurt could end.
England have driven so often down Route 66 only to find themselves in a cul-de-sac but Rooney’s hunger for winning, a trait seen so vividly and frequently for Manchester United, defined his view of Euro 2012.
“I know everyone doesn’t want us to build expectations up, but I firmly believe that we’ve got the players,’’ remarked the vice-captain when asked whether England could triumph in Kiev on July 1.
“We’re more organised than we’ve ever been as long as I’ve been in the squad and we’re hard to beat now. If we keep doing that and keep working hard then there’s no reason we can’t be in with a shout of winning it. We’re good enough.
“It helps everyone being English. There are no words lost in translation and we understand what the manager wants from us.’’
Even the possibility of facing Spain in the quarter-finals failed to perturb him. “No. You have to play the best teams if you want to win tournaments and how much of a boost would it be for us if we did play them and beat them? How much confidence would that give us?
“Spain have a completely different style to any other team in the competition. You could see it in the Ireland game, they had 800-900 passes. Sometimes it is probably better to go for goal a lot earlier than they do but that’s the way they play. They wear you down.’’
First things first. Rooney focuses on stepping out at the marvellous Donbass Arena, clad in white, taking on Shevchenko and co in their yellow and blue. He visualises certain positive scenarios. “I’ve done it since getting in the Everton team really.
"I’ve always asked the kit men what colour we’re wearing, found out what colour the opponents are wearing and visualised scoring goals or good things happening in the game. I always do before every game, get good thoughts, good moments happening in the head. I do it the night before games, when I’m in bed.”
If a film were made of Rooney’s life, it would be called ‘None But The Bravado’. There is a swagger to the striker, a trait famously seen when he marched back into the England hotel in Baden Baden in 2006 after his metatarsal all-clear and declared: “The big man’s back.”
He smiled at the memory. “I don’t think I could say that now that Andy Carroll’s in the squad! I’m a confident person. I always want to do well and feel I’m good enough to do that. That’s been in me since I was a young boy.’
Mention of broken feet led to a brief discussion about how the studs have been reconfigured to give more protection to the vulnerable fourth and fifth metatarsal. “When we get our boots at our club they get sent off to a foot guy. He does the sole of the boots and the studs. There’s been a bit of work done on my boots for sure.’’
Then it was back to his tournament reflections. “I set myself high standards. My last goal in a tournament was at Euro 2004. In international tournaments I haven’t been good enough. I hope I can put it right. In South Africa , there was a lot of talk that my ankle wasn’t right, but I actually was fit. I just had a bad tournament.
“South Africa felt like it was dragging out, a long tournament. We went to Austria for two weeks before the World Cup and by the time we got to the tournament your head has gone a bit already. All the squad are happy here, we’re all playing in the games room together, in and out of each other’s rooms and enjoying it.’’
The mood will improve even more if England can silence Shevchenko, so impressive in poaching a brace against Sweden. “They were two great pieces of movement to score his goals and it doesn’t surprise me.
"If he gets a chance in the box then more than likely he’ll take it. He probably didn’t have the best of times at Chelsea and now he’s scoring goals again.’’
Rooney said he thought another Andrei, Arshavin, had done “really well”, adding that he thought he had lost weight. Another Andrei caught Rooney’s eye.
“I was quite surprised. He hasn’t played for the majority of the season for Arsenal. Mario Gomez has also done well. He’s a goalscorer, similar to Ruud van Nistelrooy a few years ago.”
Rooney’s current United strike partner is Welbeck. They started 22 games together in all competitions last season, sharing 33 goals (Rooney 24, Welbeck nine). “We have a good understanding,’’ said Rooney, who spoke to Welbeck at half-time during the Sweden match. “He was anxious because he wasn’t getting any chances.
"I told him it was important he bide his time, doesn’t get annoyed, gets in the box and chances will come. He got his chance and it was a great goal.
“His biggest strength is running behind defences. He’s so quick. If he gets behind you he’s difficult to catch. He has great feet and is also capable of coming short and linking in the play which sometimes leads me to getting in behind.
“We have four forwards fighting for one or two places. Andy has come in and done really well; he’s a big old-fashioned No?9. He can hold the ball up and score goals. You mustn’t forget Jermain Defoe, probably one of the most natural goalscorers you’re ever going to see.’’
Before heading back to the Hotel Stary, Rooney also reflected on pressure. “Sometimes you’d like to walk down to a coffee shop and have a coffee but it’s difficult when you have 10 to 15 people following you. Sometimes you do lock yourself away.’’ Not now. He is liberated from his ban. The Donbass awaits.