Some England fans weren’t convinced that Wayne Rooney, the national team’s record goalscorer, was worth taking to Euro 2016.
The 30-year-old hadn’t enjoyed a spectacular season at club level with Manchester United - 15 goals in 41 appearances was an average return for a player of his calibre - and hadn’t delivered for the Three Lions at a major tournament since Euro 2004.
However, Rooney has been, on the whole, pretty decent for England at this summer’s European Championships - arguably the team’s standout performer so far.
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Rooney and his England teammates are currently preparing for this evening’s huge Euro 2016 last-16 match against ‘minnows’ Iceland.
Victory and England will play France for a place in the semi-finals in Saint-Denis on Sunday evening.
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Gerrard on seeing Rooney for first time
One man who wasn’t in any doubt that Roy Hodgson should take Rooney to France this summer was Steven Gerrard, the former Liverpool midfielder who retired from international duty after the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Gerrard, in his latest column for the Telegraph, has spoken about the moment he first saw Rooney play as a promising 12-year-old.
“I remember the first time I saw Wayne Rooney on a football pitch,” Gerrard said. “He was 12 years old playing for the Everton academy side, and as someone working my way up the Liverpool ranks I had heard all about the special talent everyone was predicting would come through at Goodison Park.
“I wanted to see it for myself so went along to one of the junior games taking place on the Littlewoods playing fields in Netherton on Merseyside.
“You could see how good he was, so much stronger and technically gifted than everyone else. He was not just the best player, he had that swagger and the style of play we can all identify now. He also knew where the back of the net was. I walked away from that first game knowing I had seen someone with the potential to become a top player.
“By the time he made his senior debut four years later everyone on Merseyside already knew the name and had just been waiting for him to explode. He announced himself with that brilliant, memorable goal against David Seaman in that famous Everton v Arsenal match in 2002, and those of us in the England squad realised it was only a matter of time before he was called up.
“When that happened in 2003 Wayne and I instantly clicked on and off the pitch. We come from the same area of Liverpool – me being from Huyton and Wayne from Croxteth – so we became close as soon as we got to know each other. He was very much a street footballer with that ultra-competitive mentality. Obviously that is something I can relate to and I like.
“Within a few days with England you saw a footballer with the ability to stop a training session with a moment of magic, team-mates wanting to stop and applaud a goal or piece of skill. There are some players who look the part instantly and you know they will make the step up.”
Can Rooney inspire England to Euro 2016 glory?
With 52 goals in 114 appearances, Rooney - as the country’s all-time leading goalscorer - has already cemented his reputation as an England great.
However, he will be acutely aware that to put his name alongside the likes of 1966 World Cup winners Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton in the pantheon of England legends, he will need to win a major tournament.
Rooney is in France to help England win Euro 2016 - but can the Three Lions go all the way? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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