Giving the armband to striker is not ideal – but it is sensible choice for a stop-gap skipper


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The Independent Online

It was only in June that Wayne Rooney was forced to sit out the first two games of Euro 2012 as a result of mindlessly kicking out at Miodrag Dzudovic in England's final qualifier against Montenegro. With that suspension so fresh in the memory it was difficult to reconcile his presence yesterday alongside Roy Hodgson as England's temporary captain.

This summer, Rooney's absence, and the consequent falling away of his form, cost England. Just as his lack of fitness, and subsequent red card, hurt England in the 2006 World Cup finals. As did his performance and attitude in South Africa in 2010. More is expected of Rooney with England because he is capable of so much, and it is a burden he has not always been able to bear.

Yet the choice between Joe Hart and Rooney for captain was a simple one for Hodgson. If he had given it to the goalkeeper, the questions would have been about why he had not given the captaincy to Rooney. He is a controversy-in-waiting, and for all those who feel he does not deserve the captaincy the simple answer is it was more trouble not to give it to him.

In mitigation for Rooney, his red card against Montenegro was over a year ago. Its consequences may have affected the summer but it took place in Podgorica on 7 October last year, and since then, Rooney can argue that he has cleaned up his act. He has played 44 games for club and country since Montenegro and been booked just once.

That is a surprisingly good record for a player who is, with some justification, associated with moments of impetuosity. There has been a major improvement and the Rooney who faced up to the media yesterday was open about the problems he has encountered in the past.

Making him England captain for the second time in his career for a home qualifier against a weak opposition may not please everyone, but it is the sensible decision.