Wayne Rooney is set for a trip down memory lane when England face Australia on Friday in the second of their Euro 2016 warm-up matches.
The 30-year-old made his international debut against the Socceroos back in 2003. In an otherwise drab 3-1 friendly defeat, the teenage striker lit up England’s showing, notably helping create Francis Jeffers’ goal.
The precocious star had the whole football world in front of him then. Thirteen years later, Rooney has a far narrower remit in which he can impose himself—especially when it comes to the national team.
Despite a European Championships qualifying campaign in which he scored seven goals, becoming England’s all-time top scorer in the process, the veteran is no longer guaranteed a place. At least, he’s not guaranteed the forward role he has primarily occupied throughout his career.
After over a decade as the team’s star, previous failures in major tournaments and the emergence of others over the last year means he is now required to make himself indispensable in a different way if he is to play. If selected, this begins with Australia.
That Rooney has this chance is a start.
Manager Roy Hodgson has not forgotten the veteran’s part in his team going unbeaten in qualification (not to mention his leading the way in seeing off the then-ascendant old rivals Scotland in a “friendly”). The Manchester United man has captained the side since Steven Gerrard’s post-2014 World Cup retirement.
Harry Kane and, more recently, Jamie Vardy have come into the mix in the latter part of this period. The early indication from the wins over Germany and Turkey is not only that they will be able to replicate their outstanding club form, but that they may also be able to do it co-exisiting in the same side.
Rooney (pictured above, back in training) was absent for those games, and at least in the public eye, has suffered for being out of sight, if not out of mind. Even a believer in his enduring ability, such as Hodgson, appears unable to ignore the greater present powers the Premier League’s in-form men offer—at least when it comes to leading his attack.
The England boss’ backing of Rooney up until now suggests he will look to accommodate him, however.
“He has captained the team extremely …
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