While appearing to have embraced a newfound maturity,a single aberration by Wayne Rooney last year could prove costly to England’s hopes at the European Championship.
With less than 20 minutes of England’s qualifying campaign remaining,Rooney’s petulant side re-emerged at the wrong time last October. The Manchester United striker kicked Montenegro defender Miodrag Dzudovic,a moment of frustration that earned him a three-match ban from UEFA.
Although that was reduced to two matches on appeal,Rooney will still have to watch from the sidelines when England starts the group stage against France and Sweden.
Despite reducing his striking options for the first two matches,England coach Roy Hodgson is insistent on including Rooney in his 23-man squad.
“Wayne Rooney is not just part of my plans,but part of England’s plans and the England setup for a long while to come I hope,” said Hodgson,who was hired on May 1 to lead the team at Euro 2012. “I’m hoping he’ll be with us in the tournament.”
Qualifying ended _ and started _ badly for Rooney.
The red card in Montenegro came days after Rooney’s father was arrested as part of an investigation into betting irregularities. He was cleared last month.
Days before the first qualifier in 2010,it was Rooney himself hitting the front pages,mired in a sex scandal. He was accused of cheating on his then-pregnant wife with a prostitute and admitted: “I’m only a human being.”
Almost two years later,though,Rooney is widely perceived as being a player and person transformed,with the once-hotheaded striker’s temper finally curbed.
He was sent off at the 2006 World Cup for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho and then endured a miserable 2010 tournament,which saw him swear into a television camera,hurling abuse at England fans after a game.
But Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson insists the 26-year-old Rooney has grown up.
“You always see a maturity about players when they reach their mid-20s,” Ferguson said. “Along with their ability comes the thought patterns and timing. They are more in control of themselves in terms of what they are capable of doing.
“Experience helps,of course. I don’t think Wayne’s had many bookings.”
Rooney has been booked only once this season in the Premier League and once in the Champions League for United.
“I feel I’ve matured on the pitch,maybe cut out some silly bookings that I did get in the past,” Rooney said. “I hope that continues.”
And Rooney has been key for United this season,averaging nearly a goal per match.
The stage is set for Rooney to finally make his mark again at a major tournament,having not scored at the 2006 or 2010 World Cups while England didn’t qualify for Euro 2008.
But he did score four goals at Euro 2004,when he was only 18.
“In tournaments,apart from the first tournament,the others have ended in disappointment for England and me personally,” Rooney said. “It’s something I want to put right and with the young players coming in the team I’m confident we can be successful.”
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