• World Cup qualifier

Rooney: I've matured as a person and player

ESPN staff
October 12, 2012
Wayne Rooney looks forward to captaincy challenge

Wayne Rooney insists his days of capricious behaviour are behind him and has vowed to captain England with honour when he leads the Three Lions at Wembley on Friday.

Rooney has taken over the armband with regular skipper Steven Gerrard out of the clash against San Marino through suspension. Frank Lampard, another candidate for the captaincy, has been ruled out with a knee problem that could see him miss next Tuesday's trip to Poland for another World Cup qualifier.

Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart was touted as a possibility to take over leadership of the group this week, but Roy Hodgson has instead opted to show faith in 26-year-old Rooney.

The Manchester United striker has had his share of controversies in recent years, including his sending off against Montenegro in a Euro 2012 qualifier last year, and his unleashing a tirade of profanities toward a TV camera during a match with Algeria in Cape Town at the 2010 World Cup.

Rooney, though, is confident there will be no repeat and claims he has become a changed man following the incidents.

"What happened in Montenegro was stupid," he said. "I regretted it as soon as I'd done it. It won't be happening again, I can promise.

"The thing against Algeria was partly to do with looking for a way to justify my own performance. Since then, I've matured more as a player and a person. I have cut out a lot of the silly tackles and mistakes I made as a young player. I don't want to be making the wrong type of headlines and missing games I don't want to be missing."

Rooney says he will follow the lead of former United skipper Roy Keane, and believes he can base his leadership style on the combative midfielder.

"He was a great captain, vocal on the pitch and helpful off it," Rooney said. "He didn't scare me. I respected him. He was one of the best players in the Premier League and Manchester United history.

"When he had a go at me, I wanted to show what I can do. Sometimes when you want to win, it's not always about sitting down and talking quietly. You have a go at each other to try. He was the same with senior players as he was with the younger ones. He wasn't afraid to tell anybody how he wanted them to play."

It is three years since Rooney led England in a friendly defeat by Brazil in Doha. At the time, it seemed Fabio Capello only gave him the job because he asked, but Hodgson believes the appointment of captain is a crucial part of binding a successful English team together.

"It's a fundamental part of the English culture," Hodgson said. "I go back to Bobby Moore or Billy Wright. Maybe it's not the case in other countries. Here the captain has iconic status.

"The expectations for Wayne, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are a bit higher than those playing their third, fourth or fifth game. It's a cross top players have to bear. But I had no hesitation thinking Wayne could handle it and it didn't occur to me to give the captaincy to anyone else. He deserves it."

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