As captain Wayne Rooney becomes England’s new ‘icon’, the Manchester United striker is insisting that his role in the team has not changed – only his maturity has.
The 26-year-old was handed the armband by Roy Hodgson yesterday after Steven Gerrard and usual stand-in skipper Frank Lampard were ruled out through suspension and injury and Rooney was the only man for the job.
And as the former Everton ace prepares to lead his country out for the first time in a competitive fixture, he claims that his angry TV camera outbursts, rash challenges and red cards are behind him.
“I don’t think I’m going to change my attitude because I’m wearing the armband,” said the forward. “But I’m quite vocal on the pitch and my determination can hopefully help the team.
“I don’t want to be making the wrong type of headlines and missing games I don’t want to be missing.
“What happened in Montenegro [where he was sent off and banned for the first two Euro 2012 games] was stupid. 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 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.”
Gerrard will reclaim the armband when England face Poland in their second World Cup qualifier of the month on Tuesday, and Rooney hailed the Liverpool hero’s determination for inspiring him as a footballer.
“Steven Gerrard has certainly been an inspiration in my career,” he said.
“I saw his determination as a player, growing up. I saw his passion and desire to play for Liverpool and England, and that’s fantastic.
“I’ve captained United a few times, in Champions League and different things. I think it’s a great responsibility for me to take.
“I feel I’ve matured as a player in my game. I feel I’ve learned the game better, and have a different style.
“Whatever the manager (Hodgson) asks me to do, I can do it. Hopefully I can help the players and myself.”
But to coin a cliché, with great power comes responsibility and a duty to fill the boots of some of the country’s greatest sportsmen.
He said: “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.
“[The captaincy] is a fundamental part of the English culture. I go back to Bobby Moore or Billy Wright.
“Maybe it’s not the case in other countries. Here the captain has iconic status.”