Saturday 16 December 2017

Rooney wary of team-mates gunning for his England place

England forward Wayne Rooney
England forward Wayne Rooney

Jeremy Wilson

The ink had barely dried on a new page in the history of English football when Wayne Rooney revealed how he is driven by a daily fear that an entire chapter might soon close.

"I train every day as if my place is on the line," he said. "When you get older and have played a lot of games you become more aware of that. I understand there are a lot of young lads in this team and I don't want to give my place up. I want to play.

"I come and work harder every time. I want to make it difficult for the manager to leave me out over the next couple of years."

Does he now fear for his place? "I think you have to," he said.

Such candour was especially striking given that Rooney was speaking as he left Wembley on Tuesday night, barely an hour after scoring the penalty against Switzerland that made him England's first player to reach 50 international goals.

Rooney was mentally already on to the next challenge. He drove back to Manchester with his family on Tuesday night and was back in training yesterday morning ahead of playing Liverpool at Old Trafford on Saturday.

"There's no better game to go into after losing our last match," he said. "It is a game we have to win."


Although Rooney is now on a run of 22 goals in his past 34 England matches, it is 10 games and five months since he last scored in the Premier League. His team-mates, though, expect this England achievement to spur his club performances.

"I think it will inspire him," Chris Smalling said. "I think we will see a flying Wayne Rooney come Saturday."

Smalling said it had been an emotional experience for the younger players to be part of Rooney's landmark.

"Roy Hodgson had the shirt with the '50' on it and we were all shouting 'Rooney, Rooney' so loud it was only a matter of time before he did that speech in the dressing-room."

Rooney said that he felt "overwhelmed" by the acclaim of his team-mates and admitted that nerves had earlier ensured that he went simply for power on his penalty. "I just thought 'put your boot through the ball'," he said.

The wider question is just how much more Rooney can achieve. Gary Lineker, third on the England goalscorers list but, perhaps conscious that his own international career ended rather abruptly at the age of 32, stressed that longevity is unpredictable.

"You never know how long a player has left, especially with strikers," Lineker said. "Once you turn 30 as a striker you are usually on the way down." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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