England manager Roy Hodgson has remained confident that Wayne Rooney can handle the weight of captaining both England’s national team at international level and Manchester United at club level.
With an ongrowing number of caps, former Three Lions goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s international appearance record is firmly in Rooney’s sights.
Rooney is set to join the list of England’s centurions when, as expected, he will lead the side out at Wembley for the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier against Slovenia on November 15.
The 29-year-old took over England’s armband following the retirement of Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard after the FIFA World Cup last summer, and was also Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal’s choice as the Red Devils’ skipper.
While Hodgson accepts such expectation can sit heavy on some shoulders, he is confident Rooney will continue to rise to the challenge for a few seasons yet and could challenge Shilton’s landmark England appearance target at 125.
“I think Wayne is in a very good place at the moment, and he has been a very good player over the past couple of years,” he said.
“I made an effort to meet him before I was officially appointed in that two weeks spell where I was doubling up as West Brom manager.
“I was interested in what am I going to meet here? Will it be someone who is burning to play? Or someone who will take it as ‘well, I will do you a favour for a bit longer if it suits me’. I met the man who was burning to play, and that is the way he has been all along.'”
“Since he has been made captain, I think he has taken an even further step, both at Manchester United and with us.”
“The big question is, of course, as one of the few seniors left in the team, absolutely guaranteed if you like a place in the team, the same at Manchester United, I worry the sense of responsibility is going to weigh him down.”
“We do all we can, myself and the coaching staff, to make sure that will not happen with us, but of course when you take something seriously, it is all very well telling someone to leave your problems behind and don’t worry about them, to get on with your life, it is easy to say, but very hard to do sometimes.”
He added: “That is the danger – sometimes when players take on responsibility, they take on too much and it is to the detriment of their own game.”
“We have seen Steven do that on occasions in the past – he cares so much for England, for Liverpool, sometimes they take it all on their shoulders. I think that is very unfair.”
“I don’t care whether you are a captain or Lionel Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo, I don’t think you can be expected to take all the responsibility on your shoulders.”
“What you should be doing is doing your bit and being as good as you are and inspiring the other players in the team.”
“At the moment Wayne is coping with it well, but we will have to keep an eye on the situation, as will Louis, to make sure it does not weigh him down.”
“But until that time comes we have just got to get on with it and be glad that he is doing the job that we as coaching staff want him to do, and ensure that the other players know there job so well that they are not relying on him to get them out of trouble.”
Rooney will look to push on through to play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, by which time the forward may have overtaken Sir Bobby Charlton’s 49-goal international record.
“He is just 29, so to be honest players can play so much longer than in the past if they look after themselves,” said Hodgson.
“If we are generous and give him another five years, which is not beyond the bounds of possibility, he should beat Peter’s record.”