LONDON, England, October 11 – Wayne Rooney admits he is desperate to make amends for years of under-achievement with England after being named as captain for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against San Marino.
Rooney will lead England out at Wembley in the absence of suspended regular skipper Steven Gerrard and injured vice-captain Frank Lampard, and the Manchester United striker would love to celebrate the occasion with a rare inspired display for his country.
Since bursting onto the international scene with a series of dazzling performances at Euro 2004, Rooney has struggled to replicate his superb club form on England duty.
He has scored 29 times for England, but major tournaments have ended in disappointment far too often.
In the 2006 World Cup he was sent off during a quarter-final defeat against Portugal and four years later he failed to score in South Africa as England crashed out in dismal fashion in the last 16.
Rooney fared little better at this year’s European Championships and the 26-year-old acknowledges that, while Everton and now United have seen the best of him, the same can’t be said of his time with England.
“Am I unfulfilled at international level? That is fair. I haven’t been at my best for England and that is something I’m desperate to put right,” he said on Thursday.
“I think us as a team and as a country, we need to be more successful and better in tournament football.
“At club level I’ve won nine trophies and the only thing missing is being successful and to win things with England.
“That is what we are aiming to do. There are new coaching staff and a lot of young players have come into the squad and the future is bright for us.”
Rooney admits it didn’t help that he struggled to cope with the pressures of life in the public eye after first becoming an England regular.
But he has gradually got used to increased scrutiny that inevitably follows the country’s top players.
“From my point of view, the first few years were the hardest to live up in terms of expectations,” he said.
“The first few years are the most difficult part to adjust your life.
“Now I’m not too concerned about it. I don’t go out, I go to a restaurant with my wife and family and keep myself to myself.”
Although he is now a more mature figure, Rooney’s only previous experience of captaining England came in a friendly defeat against Brazil in Doha three years ago and he can’t wait to pull on the armband for the first time at Wembley.
“It is a great honour. I’m really proud and excited. It will be a big night for me and my family,” he added.
“It is a big challenge for myself. I don’t know what sort of captain I am and I already speak with all the players whether it is younger or older.
“But I will try and get the best out of myself and the other players, and hopefully they can get the best out of me.