LONDON — Despite an often tempestuous relationship with fans and past concerns over his temperament, Wayne Rooney has received the symbolically-prestigious honor of captaining England.
“I hope that I will have the full backing of the fans,” Rooney said Thursday. “I am their type of player once I am on that pitch.”
Rooney is no stranger to controversy, though, including indiscretions about his personal life that have left the Manchester United player frustrated and have led to flare-ups.
“He has that baggage with him,” England coach Roy Hodgson said. “And he will have to accept that as a further part of the pressure.”
The appointment was no surprise. Goalkeeper Joe Hart aside, Rooney was the only realistic option to assume the captain’s armband from Steven Gerrard, who retired from international duty after England’s first-round exit from the World Cup. Rooney was also recently handed the United captain’s armband by new manager Louis van Gaal.
England needs to regain international credibility in qualifying for the 2016 European Championship, which begins on Sept. 8 at Switzerland. To prepare, there is a friendly against Norway at Wembley on Wednesday. Four players were called up for England for the first time on Thursday: defenders Calum Chambers and Danny Rose, and midfielders Jack Colback and Fabian Delph
The most experienced player in the squad is the 28-year-old Rooney with his 40 goals in 95 England appearances.
Rooney has emerged as one of England’s few leaders, growing in stature and confidence. But despite winning every major honor with Manchester United — from the Premier League to the Champions League — Rooney has never come close to collecting silverware with his country.
“I will not look on my England career as a success unless we win something and that is my attitude to playing football,” Rooney said. “There is no point turning up unless we believe we can win.”
Far more was expected after announcing himself on the international scene with four goals at Euro 2004 as an 18-year-old forward. He also has also distinguished himself in the wrong way in an England shirt.
The 2006 World Cup campaign was remembered for his red card against Portugal and four years later Rooney sarcastically sneered into a camera after a draw with Algeria: “Nice to see the home fans boo you. That’s what you call loyal supporters.”
But Rooney appears to have won over fans by showing his commitment to the cause in a country where expectations for the national team far exceed the prospects of success.