Fomer skipper David Beckham is convinced Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is the ideal man to finally deliver major championship success for England at this summer’s European Championships in France.
Beckham, who won 115 international caps during an illustrious career, experienced first hand World Cup and European Championship heartache – never progressing in either competition past the quarter-final stage for England.
After Steven Gerrard’s international retirement in 2014 following a disastrous World Cup in Brazil, Rooney was handed the captain’s armband by manager Roy Hodgson.
Beckham saw first hand Rooney’s international debut in 2003 and has since watched the former Everton striker mature on and off the field over the last 12 years.
And as Hodgson prepares to take an inexperienced squad to France next summer, Beckham is convinced Rooney, now England’s all-time leading goalscorer, is the right man to lead and inspire England.
“Without a doubt Wayne is someone who can get on with anyone else in a dressing room,” said Beckham, who will captain a Great Britain and Ireland line-up that will play against a Rest of the World side led by Zinedine Zidane at Old Trafford on November 14 to raise awareness and funds for UNICEF, the world’s leading children’s organisation, with Sir Alex and Carlo Ancelotti managing the teams.
“He came into the England team when he was just 17, and he could hold a conversation and be around the older players even at that age.
“It’s the same now. He is almost 30 years old, but still connects with the guys who are 19 and 20 coming into the England set-up, which is exactly what you want from your captain.
“That’s that great thing about Wayne. He’s a great guy to have in the changing room, and you just know when you’re playing with him that he’ll run through a brick wall for you.
“He is definitely someone that has made a transition, not only on the pitch, but also as a person as well.
“He’s breaking records all over the place and he will continue to do that because of the type of player and person that he is.
“So I’m really happy to see the progression that he’s had and I hope it continues, because you need that as captain of both England and Manchester United.”
The 29-year-old Manchester United striker may not have been firing all cylinders for club this season – with just one goal to his name in the Premier League – but after breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s 45-year-old England scoring record, Beckham is adamant Rooney can only get better for the Three Lions.
With seven goals from England’s eight Euro 2016 qualifiers so far, it seems it may be now or never for Rooney to finally make his mark on a major tournament having misfired so far in an otherwise exceptional international career.
But speaking yesterday, 14 years to the day since he swept home that remarkable free-kick at Old Trafford to send England to the 2002 World Cup, Beckham believes Rooney will not be feeling like he is under the microscope next summer.
“I don’t think Wayne is someone that worries about pressure at all. At the end of the day he just loves playing football,” he said.
“When he steps onto the field for training or whether he is heading into a big competition, all he thinks about is winning.
“That’s all he cares about, and even now he is always excited for his next game, so I don’t think he will feel under any extra pressure next summer.
“That’s what the rest of the players will be looking at. You don’t want to see nerves in your captain, and they won’t see that with Wayne.”
Bringing younger talent into the full England set-up has been a theme of Roy Hodgson’s tenure as England manger, with the likes of Dele Alli and Danny Ings both given the chance to stake a claim for a spot at Euro 2016 with their first call-ups to the squad last week.
And despite Sky pundit and Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher claiming that it has never been easier to earn an England cap, Beckham does not see it that way.
“I’ve always been one who has said that as long as you’re good enough then it doesn’t matter what age you are when you’re brought into a team,” he said.
“I think that Roy has done well to bring these younger guys into the team. It’s what Sir Alex Ferguson did at Manchester United and obviously it is what Sven [Goran Eriksson] did with Wayne himself.
“If you’re good enough then you should be able to play in the team, and I think that is a great philosophy to have.”
The David Beckham UNICEF Match for Children kick-offs at 3pm on 14th November 2015 at Old Trafford, Manchester. Tickets from £20 (Adults) & £10 (Under-16s) are on sale at www.manutd.com/tickets
Image courtesy of FATV, via Youtube, with thanks