Sir Bobby Charlton would not be upset if Wayne Rooney overtakes his record of 49 goals for England. With Michael Owen stuck on 40 and apparently having little chance of breaking into Fabio Capello's plans for next summer's World Cup in South Africa, attention is now turning to Rooney as the man likeliest to challenge Charlton's mark.
The 23-year-old went into last night's qualifier with Croatia at Wembley 12th on the all-time list with 24 goals, the same as Sir Geoff Hurst. If Rooney remains injury-free, he could expect to have another 10 years at the highest level, which would bring Charlton's record easily within reach.
And the man widely regarded as England's greatest player would be happy to hand over his record to the Manchester United marksman. "I would really have no problems if Wayne eventually got beyond 50," Charlton said. "There are a lot of goals to come from him. I don't worry about talking about Wayne like this or the fact that people see him as so vital for England these days because he is a strong character."
Indeed, as they stand on the brink of a remarkable change in fortunes following the failure to qualify for Euro 2008, Charlton feels Rooney can help steer England towards tournament success to emulate the glory day in 1966 of which he was such an integral part. "We have suffered inconsistency for a good 20 or 30 years," said Charlton. "But we are getting a consistent look to our game under Fabio Capello. If the team continue to perform well, and Wayne is a key to that, then we can start thinking about success at international level again."
The England and Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor believes he will no longer be "bullied" by the likes of the Chelsea captain John Terry and Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand after a summer of weight training.
Agbonlahor bulked up after deciding he was too lightweight to take on the Premier League's leading defenders. But he insists his new appearance and size will not be to the detriment of his lightning pace, which has been his trademark quality and has helped him reach the England set-up. "I did a lot of work during the summer, a fair bit of weight training," Agbonlahor said. "I thought about it last season. I want to be able to hold my own physically.
"There was no particular game where I thought 'I need to do this'. I just thought there was no harm in getting a bit bigger and a bit stronger. It always helps. I just don't want to get bullied up front and I don't want to get easily pushed off the ball. John Carew and Emile Heskey can look after themselves on the pitch. I wanted to be like that, too.
"It's obviously important I don't lose my speed in the process. It's a balancing act but I think I've got it spot on. The gaffer [Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill] wants me to stop now because he doesn't want me to lose that speed up front. The work definitely hasn't affected me. I needed to stop at a certain limit and I've done that now.
"I'm never going to be as big and strong as John and Emile but it's good to not get pushed off the ball. That's so important as a striker. It can only help. In the past few games, the manager has played me up front on my own and my new physique has definitely helped."Reuse content