Wayne Rooney looks back on England's World Cup disaster and calls it "his worst moment in football". The new England captain confessed he was unable to get the bad memories from Brazil out of his mind as he tried to relax before the new season.
In the wake of England's less than impressive display against Norway on Wednesday – and looking ahead to tomorrow evening's European Championship qualifying game in Switzerland – Rooney was brutally honest.
There was to be no sugar-coating. England had, he admitted, been "sloppy' at times" and "could have done better" against Norway.
He wanted to look ahead to the 2016 European Championships and tomorrow's opening qualifier against Switzerland but, first, he had to look back and address what manager Roy Hodgson calls "the baggage" of the World Cup debacle.
"That was my worst moment in football," Rooney said. "The younger lads who were there as well, they felt that, and it is not a nice feeling. We have to try to make sure we don't feel like that again, and so make sure we qualify for the Euros. If we get there, when we get there, then that experience can will help us.
"We don't get much time off after [the World Cup]. It was three weeks and you have to take a break, but you are still thinking of things that you could have done differently or better, so it is frustrating.
"Up until the Norway game, really, you are still thinking about it, so I was just glad to get back out there again playing for England and getting the victory. The disappointment is still there, obviously, but you have to move on and focus now on the qualifiers for the Euros.
"It was important we came back after the World Cup to get a victory – but now the real business starts. You could say it is the start of a new era. We've lost the likes of Frank [Lampard], Steven [Gerrard] and Ashley Cole; they have been massive players for us over the years. Now the younger lads, they have to come in and step up, it is as simple as that. There are big expectations playing for England. We all understand that.
"It is going to be a tough game in Switzerland, we know that. But we have to focus and work on things which we feel can expose them. We have to play better than against Norway to get a good result, but I am sure we'll learn from that game. It is a young squad and there were moments when we could have done better. We played some good stuff first half and were a bit unfortunate not to go in at half-time with the lead. We started the second half really sloppy, which was disappointing, and we knew we had to improve. Thankfully we got the goal and then finished the game well. So there were some good signs – but there were some sloppy moments."
There was criticism that Rooney was trying too hard because he was captain, trying to force passes that were not on, or go searching for the ball when he should have been finding and making space, but he insisted he treated the match as a normal game.
"Obviously you feel a greater responsibility [as captain], but once you are out there you are playing with your team-mates, you are trying to win the game, so it was not so much different on the pitch as we are all trying to help each other.
"It is a great honour and something that I was extremely proud to do. I am grateful to the manager for giving me the opportunity. It was a proud moment for me – but I was just pleased to get out on the pitch and play the game."
And to begin the process of putting the failures of the 2014 World Cup behind him, and England.
He backed his former Manchester United team-mate Danny Welbeck to succeed at Arsenal, and for England to benefit. He said of Welbeck, who had been at Old Trafford since he was a young boy, "Danny is a lively player, an impact player. He is quick, he can score goals. Hopefully he can play up front for Arsenal, that will really help him with England."
One problem for Rooney is that if Welbeck does flourish in front of goal at Arsenal Rooney's own England place could be in doubt. Against Norway, England looked more fluent late on with Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge in tandem up front and Raheem Sterling in behind after Rooney had been substituted.Reuse content