WATFORD, United Kingdom: As he prepares to lead England as captain against Norway on Wednesday, Wayne Rooney says he will not consider his tenure a success unless it sees him lift a trophy.
The 28-year-old Manchester United striker was last week appointed as Steven Gerrard’s successor as skipper after the Liverpool midfielder retired from international football following the World Cup.
With 95 caps to his name, Rooney has at least twice as much experience as any other member of Roy Hodgson’s current squad.
He has known nothing but disappointment at the five major tournaments he has played in, but despite England’s dismal group-stage exit at the World Cup, he still believes he can inspire the team to glory.
“I’ve always wanted to win a trophy with England, and if I can lead us to do that, that’ll be the pinnacle of my career,” he told journalists at an eve-of-match briefing on Tuesday.
“That will be very difficult, but I really do think it’s achievable. Look at the players we’ve got. They’re exciting players.
“They have to do what they do for their clubs with England, and we have to bring that together. Of course it’s very difficult. It is for any country, but that has to be our aim.
“It’s pointless not having that as your aim or your desire.”
While Rooney cited his former Manchester United team-mate Gary Neville and ex-England colleague David Beckham as two captains whose methods he would seek to emulate, he was particularly effusive in his praise of Gerrard.
“I’m close with Steven and probably watched him closer than any of them, the way he handled himself and the team,” said Rooney, who is also United’s new captain.
“Gary knows the game very well. That’s where you see him going straight into the job he’s doing at Sky (as a television pundit).
“Becks was obviously a great ambassador for English football, and Steven had both qualities. A lot of qualities.
“He’s the one who demanded the most on the pitch, which is what I feel is my strongest quality. Obviously, the stuff off the pitch, I’ll learn. I demand a lot from myself, and I’ll demand a lot from my team-mates.”
A dearth of competition at international level means that Rooney is practically guaranteed a starting berth, but he faces increased competition for a place with his club.
United further bolstered their attacking ranks by signing Radamel Falcao on loan on transfer deadline day and with Robin van Persie also at manager Louis van Gaal’s disposal, there has been speculation that Rooney will be asked to play at number 10.
The former Everton player has previously spoken about one day playing even further back, in midfield, and he thinks it would be a natural progression.
“I certainly feel I’m capable of dropping back (into midfield),” said Rooney, who will partner Daniel Sturridge up front against Norway.
“I’m sure one day I will. That’s down to my two managers now and me speaking to them. I know what you’re getting at, obviously.
“That’s more a question about United, and that’s down to what Louis van Gaal wants. We need to speak to him about that and see what happens.
“I think on the back end of my career, I’ll probably definitely play there (in midfield). But in terms of now, I’m not sure.”
A crowd of only 40,000 is expected for Wednesday’s game, but Rooney says he is desperate to give the fans reason for optimism ahead of England’s first Euro 2016 qualifier away to Switzerland on Monday.
“We’re always grateful to the fans. Their support is second to none,” he said.
“We’re very grateful and hopefully we can repay them with some good performances over the next two years, and exciting, attractive football to qualify for Euro 2016. That’s the aim, and that starts from tomorrow.”