WAYNE Rooney will follow in the footsteps of legends tonight when he captains England in a competitive international for the first time, insisting the flashes of temper that scarred the early period of his career are a thing of the past.
With Steven Gerrard ruled out through suspension and Frank Lampard missing with a knee problem which leaves him doubtful for Tuesday’s crucial trip to Poland, Rooney will inherit the armband.
The 26-year-old is a logical choice, although some did feel Joe Hart would have been less of a risk given Rooney’s past indiscretions.
His crime sheet includes two four-letter tirades at TV cameras, one after England’s awful goalless draw with Algeria in Cape Town at the last World Cup, and also the needless dismissal in Montenegro last year that led to him being suspended for the first two matches of England’s Euro 2012 campaign.
The negative impact of that behaviour did not become fully apparent until Roy Hodgson’s side reached Poland and Ukraine, and Rooney’s two sluggish displays.
Now as the 26-year-old assumes even greater responsibility beyond simply being England’s best player, Rooney is confident there will be no repeat.
“What happened in Montenegro was stupid,” he said. “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 to 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.
“I don’t want to be making the wrong type of headlines and missing games I don’t want to be missing.”