Saviour, scapegoat, captain: Rooney prepares for 100th cap

Wayne Rooney hailed as a 'caring captain' by Hodgson ahead of landmark game against Slovenia

Wayne Rooney, England

It's not a word commonly associated with Wayne Rooney, but according to England manager Roy Hodgson his skipper is "a very caring captain".

Hodgson was speaking before the Three Lions' Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia on Saturday, a match that will see Rooney win his 100th cap for his country. Along the way there have been some highs – his performances in Euro 2004, for example, and his 43 goals – intermingled with some lows, including two red cards and criticising his fans on camera.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, Hodgson admitted that the 29-year-old Rooney has "had a turbulent career in many ways".

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In the 11 years since he made his England debut, the Manchester United striker has become his country's fourth highest goalscorer but has failed to inspire them to glory in an international competition. In three World Cup Finals Rooney has managed just one goal in 11 appearances, a desperate return for a player routinely billed as world-class. Hodgson, however, has sympathy for his captain.

"He burst on to the scene as the wonder kid. He was the saviour of English football," explained Hodgson. "And he has had to suffer the slings and arrows because of the times when, of course, he has not been able to be the saviour of English football and people have criticised him for it... I think that has given him an incredible maturity and mental strength."

And Hodgson claims Rooney has needed that strength because of the country's habit of putting a person on a pedestal in order to then take pot shots at them. "Having built him up to a very high level, they have worked very hard to knock him right back down again," he said.

Hodgson appointed Rooney captain in August, following the retirement of Steven Gerrard, another England player who flattered to deceive on the international stage. The decision to give Rooney the role was met with scepticism in some quarters, but Hodgson is delighted with what he's seen so far. "He is a very caring captain," explained the England manager. "He is very good in making certain that everyone is comfortable and satisfied and that there are no problems within the group. He has taken the captaincy unbelievably seriously."

Group leaders England will need to take Slovenia seriously on Saturday when they clash at Wembley. Victory over the side currently second in the pool – three points behind the Three Lions - will strengthen their grip on the pool.

Before the game Rooney will receive his 100th cap from Bobby Charlton, whose 49 England goals are firmly in his sights. And Hodgson has no doubt his captain is well placed to overhaul Charlton's 44-year goalscoring record, declaring: "He is a consistent performer and someone who regards playing for his country as something of vital importance."

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