Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney sees the writing on the wall from the great Ian Thorpe

England underachiever could take his cue to deliver from swimmer's 100 per cent philosophy

If motivational sporting sound bites are your thing, then the Football Association's St George's Park has one for just about every situation and stencilled on every wall, even the hydrotherapy suite. In there it is the wisdom of the Australian Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe, whose advice is: "Losing is not coming second. It's getting out of the water knowing you could have done better."

Asked later which of the slogans he had remembered from his tour around the building on Monday, Wayne Rooney said it was Thorpe's words that had stuck in his mind. "It was the one in the swimming pool from Ian Thorpe," he said. "I think that is quite good. I don't know why that stuck in my mind, but it did."

The question of whether Rooney could have done more with his considerable talent has always been the subject of debate, in particular in the past six months – first when he went to Las Vegas at the end of last season when he was recovering from an operation on his toe, and in the knowledge that he was suspended for the first two games of Euro 2012.

Eyebrows were also raised at Sir Alex Ferguson's observation in August that Rooney had started the season without being match-fit. In the recently serialised latest volume of his autobiography Rooney conceded that when he returned to the club for pre-season in 2009 his indulgences over that summer had left him overweight and out of shape.

He said: "I can understand and see where you are coming from [on the Las Vegas trip]. But I wasn't in Vegas going out every night drinking and partying. Obviously, I went out one night and that was seen. I couldn't train anyway. That is why I had the extra time off. I had to have something done to my toe. It was just a way to relax before I came into training but, obviously, I can understand [the criticism].

"There was no treatment for me to get [back in Manchester]. Looking back, I can understand why maybe yourselves and the fans weren't happy."

Was his fitness an issue at the start of the season? "Not really. I came back pre-season, did all my training and probably had one bad game. It gets highlighted, of course. When I came back in I wasn't out of shape. I was probably not as fit as I could have been, whether that's because I didn't have the time to get the training in. I got injured since. I have worked hard. To be honest, it probably helped me to get fit, getting injured. I feel good, I feel fit. I feel ready to go and play."


Get Adobe Flash player


He has also had to contend with the recent allegation from the former England manager Fabio Capello that he saved his best performances for Manchester United and that England suffered accordingly. "I didn't see it," Rooney said. "I'd have liked to have played better for England. For whatever reasons, it hasn't happened – but I can hold my head up high and say I've always worked hard, given everything and I'll continue to do that. I'd like to know why [it has not always worked out]. Hopefully, it will come off for us one day."

On Friday he will face San Marino in the first of two World Cup qualifiers which will, if nothing else, represent a good opportunity for him to climb the all-time England goalscorers' list. He lies eighth, with 29 goals, but more than one against San Marino will take him past Tom Finney, Nat Lofthouse and Alan Shearer into fifth place behind Michael Owen, who has 40.

The one list where his supremacy is not in question is his Twitter follower count, which stands at more than 5.1 million, making him the most followed sportsman in Britain. In a week when Ashley Cole (followers: 442,725) caused a storm with his tweet in criticism of the FA, it was interesting to hear Rooney's take on his social media profile.

"It is a good way for the fans to see a different side of you and away from football. I don't try and get involved [in arguments], you do get a bit of stick on it, but I try and leave it and not get involved. You obviously know everything you put on there is seen by everyone who follows you and it will be in the newspapers the next day, so you have to be careful.

"Yes, it brings a sense of responsibility. It is not something I went on to see how many followers I could get, but it is incredible the amount of support I get. There are some people who don't like you and follow you but the amount of support you get is fantastic."

As ever with Rooney, the season is full of possibilities. He began the last one as the in-form striker, coming off the back of his fourth title-winning season at United. He finished it with another underachieving tournament with England. He has promised that, as per the Thorpeism, he will give it everything, although, as ever, there are no guarantees it will not end in tears.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral