James Milner is convinced it is how England respond in the difficult times that holds the key to their progression as an international force.

The Three Lions hit rock bottom in South Africa and although some ground was made up with Friday's 4-0 triumph over Bulgaria, they were hit by another blow on Sunday when Wayne Rooney was plastered all over the front pages amid lurid allegations about his private life. Rooney has remained with the squad ahead of Tuesday's clash with Switzerland.

And 24-year-old Milner is convinced England will emerge from the test as a stronger team as he said: "It is all about the team pulling together. You need to be united and get on with the business at hand which is winning football matches. The tighter we are as a group, the stronger we will come out of these experiences."

He added: "When you are up against the wall in big matches, when you are losing or have a man sent off, you are mentally strong enough to succeed."

Yet Milner does fear the scrutiny is so intense some England stars may eventually quit the international scene completely.

"I would rather be under pressure because it means that things are going in the right direction on the football field," he reflected. "But some people might turn round and say, 'I have had enough, I don't need that'.

"Thousands of people come every week and there are kids with your name on the back of their shirt.

"We are very privileged to be representing this country and whatever job you do there will be things you like and things you don't."

Football Association officials have insisted it is "business as usual" regarding Rooney, who showed sure signs of a return to top form against Bulgaria, claiming three assists after having a hand in England's first goal. Despite going 11 internationals since he last found the net for his country, Rooney remains a key figure.

And Milner has no doubt Rooney is capable of ending that barren run in style as he added: "I am a player, but I am a fan as well - I want the best possible team out there for England. He showed what a player he is on Friday. Hopefully he can go out and get a hat-trick on Tuesday."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
#James Milner
#Championship
Flag article