WAYNE ROONEY’S pride at notching up a century of caps is clear but so too is the England captain’s desire to end what is set to be a record-breaking international career with a trophy.
Rooney has come a long way from the fresh-faced teenager that made his debut against Australia in 2003, as this evening, just less than 12 years later, the England captain prepares to become the ninth player to rack up 100 caps for England.
“There have been some good moments and some bad moments,” he said on the eve of the Euro 2016 qualifier with Slovenia. “It is something I have really enjoyed doing. It has always been a great honour to play for England and something I want to carry on doing for a lot more years.
“I think the ultimate goal, which I’ve always said, is to win trophies and it is something which we are working towards doing.
“To get 100 caps and join the players who reached that is a great honour for me and something I am proud of.”
Wembley will be a nigh-on sell-out when Rooney leads England out alongside his children, Kai and Klay.
Sir Bobby Charlton, rather aptly, will hand the forward his 100th cap, although the 29-year-old feels almost embarrassed to be in the same bracket as the Manchester United and England great.
Rooney sees Charlton, like fellow centurion Bobby Moore, in a different stratosphere given their World Cup success – something he still dreams of replicating, looking ahead to Russia 2018.
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“Those two players are World Cup winners,” he said. “It is not everyday someone can go around and say that. That’s what I would like to join, be a World Cup winner. That would be amazing, of course, if we could do that.
“To play for my country so many times is a great achievement and I truly am honoured to be able to do that.”
Rooney says there is still “plenty more to achieve” with England and, while trophies may not follow, a place in the record books looks assured.
Peter Shilton’s record haul of 125 caps looks well within the 29-year-old’s reach, as does Charlton’s all-time scoring record of 49.
“They are two records that have stood for a lot of years,” Rooney, already on 43 goals, said. “To get within touching distance... it is something I hope I can do, but it is not something really in mind at the moment.”
Breaking those records would surely end the debate as to whether Rooney is an all-time England great.
The discussion has ratcheted up the closer the forward has got to that 100th cap, but manager Roy Hodgson suggests there is no need for that talk.
“Any player, for me, that has played more than 100 times for England – you could go even further and take it down to 75 caps – deserve the epitaph ‘great’,” he said. “We can then debate to the cows come home who is the greatest of them all and what greatness is. But, certainly, in the way I understand the word ‘great’, anyone who plays 100 times for England is a great player.”
Hodgson also confirmed that Leighton Baines was ruled out of the squad to face Slovenia and Scotland after picking up a hamstring injury in training.
Baines became the third player to withdraw from the England squad after Michael Carrick and Andros Townsend pulled out after suffering groin and ankle problems respectively.
“What happened was it was a relatively short training session. We’d had the warm-up, we’d had the passing work and were just about to go into a game situation which had only just begun when he felt his hamstring,” Hodgson said.
“Immediately he needed to stop the training because he’s an experienced player and obviously realised something wasn’t right.”
Hodgson chose to leave Luke Shaw out of his squad for the games, a decision he is now ruing following Baines’ injury.
He said: “Kieran Gibbs is the one to come in as unfortunately we had given our squad at 11 o’clock as we are duty-bound to do to Uefa and, because there were three left-backs, I left him [Shaw] out of the 23 as we had 24 players at the time. As it turns out now we can’t use him.”
The quality of the Wembley pitch has been under scrutiny following bad weather and the NFL games played at the national stadium in recent weeks. However, Hodgson opted to reserve his judgment on the surface until after the game against Slovenia.
“I suppose I have to have concerns after what has been written and all of the reports,” Hodgson said of the pitch.
“A lot of them are pretty negative, but as far as I’m concerned I’m just waiting to see.”
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