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Rooney to lead

Saturday, August 30, 2014

LONDON - Despite an often tempestuous relationship with fans and past concerns over his temperament, Wayne Rooney has received the honour of captaining England.

Taking over the leadership of an inexperienced squad that is recovering from the national team's worst-ever World Cup, Rooney knows the rebuilding process requires unity.

"I hope that I will have the full backing of the fans," Rooney said yesterday.

Rooney is no stranger to controversy, though, including indiscretions about his personal life that have left the Manchester United player frustrated and have led to flare-ups.

"He has that baggage with him," England coach Roy Hodgson said. "And he will have to accept that as a further part of the pressure."

The appointment was no surprise. Goalkeeper Joe Hart aside, Rooney was the only realistic option to assume the captain's armband from Steven Gerrard.

"Wayne is an obvious choice for his honesty, commitment to the cause, his experience," Hodgson said. "He's prepared to accept the pressures the England captaincy brings."

England's attention turns to qualifying for the 2016 European Championship, which for them begins on September 8 in Switzerland.

To prepare, there is a friendly against Norway at Wembley, with defenders Calum Chambers and Danny Rose, and midfielders Jack Colback and Fabian Delph to debut.

Rooney has emerged as one of England's few leaders but despite his club successes has never had anything like it for his country.

"I will not look on my England career as a success unless we win something and that is my attitude to playing football," Rooney said, reflecting on his national career, during which time he has had some less than stellar moments.

The 2006 World Cup campaign was remembered for his red card against Portugal and four years later Rooney sarcastically sneered into a camera after a draw with Algeria: "Nice to see the home fans boo you. That's what you call loyal supporters."

But Rooney appears to have won over fans by showing his commitment to the cause in a country where expectations for the national team far exceed the prospects of success.

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