Wayne Rooney relishes captaincy

October 13, 2012
By ESPN.com news services

Wayne Rooney vowed to continue behaving like a leader in England's World Cup qualifier in Poland, despite returning the captaincy to Steven Gerrard.

Friday night saw Manchester United striker Rooney lead out his country on home soil for the first time in a 5-0 thrashing of San Marino that lifted England back to the top of Group H.

Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesWayne Rooney will return the England captain's armband to Steven Gerrard on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old celebrated the landmark by reaching another, netting his 30th and 31st international goals to climb to fifth in England's all-time leading scorer list.

"There was never any doubt (Rooney) was a good captain," said England manager Roy Hodgson. "There was no question in my mind that he would captain the team well but I'm looking forward to seeing Steven Gerrard back in the team on Tuesday and still have hopes that Frank Lampard's injury is not serious so he has a chance of joining us there."

Hodgson confirmed Saturday that Rooney is England's captain-in-waiting.

"He was my vice-captain at the Euros from the moment he could start playing again," Hodgson said. "He does take playing for England unbelievably seriously. I know being captain is something he's very proud of and something he wants to do.

"Frank Lampard has captained the team when both Steven (Gerrard) and Wayne were absent. But I always had in my mind that Wayne would be the vice captain and when Frank comes back I suppose I've got a decision to make."

Tuesday night's trip to Warsaw will see Gerrard reclaim the armband after returning from suspension.

"It won't be a different way I look at the game or the way I try to do things," Rooney said. "I always try to talk to my teammates and I feel I can help them. It's something that I was lucky to have when I was younger and it's something which I feel it'll benefit them."

Rooney admitted he would love to skipper England full time, saying: "If you can get the opportunity to captain your country, it's something which I think -- as a player -- you need to grab with both hands. In the future, hopefully that'll happen. But, at the minute, Steven's our captain and he'll lead by example for us."

Gary Cahill, who staked his claim Friday to replace his Chelsea teammate John Terry at the heart of England's defense, said Rooney did well with his opportunity.

"I think (Rooney's) a big presence, obviously, in the national team and it's great to have him back. He's contributed yet again," Cahill said. "It's fantastic to see him having the armband and, more importantly, being back on the field."

Last night's game was not the first time Rooney had captained England but it was the first at Wembley.

"To actually lead a team out, you look up, you see the crowd and the atmosphere it's quite a feeling," he added. "To captain your country at Wembley is the greatest honor you can have. It's something that, as a young boy, you dream of and to actually do it is a great honor for me, something which I'll take and cherish for the rest of my life."

That included keeping hold of the armband from the match.

"It's a great honor which I'll keep forever," said Rooney, revealing he did not do the same with his shirt, a prize souvenir for the San Marino squad.

"I gave it to one of the players," he said. "I've given my shorts as well. That's a first. It's a great opportunity for them to come to play at Wembley in front of 86,000 fans."

San Marino was always going to be cannon fodder but Poland is a different proposition altogether on the road to Brazil.

"They're a good team, good, quick team, counterattacking team," Rooney said. "We obviously have to be focused and have 100 percent concentration. It'll be a difficult game so we'll have to make sure we're at our best to try to get a good result."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.