Rooney back on song and full of ambition

The England captaincy on permanent basis and a 50th goal for his country are the long-term aims for a striker finding form

A game at home to San Marino, a team which has conceded 478 goals in their 115 international matches, is the sort of engagement that any striker should relish. Circumstances dictate how much long-term satisfaction it brings; David Platt will doubtless remember his four goals against them at Wembley in 1993 as a happier occasion than Ian Wright does his four in the doomed return game in Bologna later the same year. For now the Manchester United pair of Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck can be grateful for the boost of two goals apiece at very different stages of their respective England careers as they move on to an altogether different assignment in Warsaw on Tuesday.

For Welbeck, the most important thing will be to keep his place in the side ahead of Jermain Defoe, one of four players left out on Friday because they were on a yellow card. Even bearing in mind the strictly limited level of the opposition he may have done enough against three central defenders to maintain the benefit of a club partnership.

Rooney will, of course, stay in the side. After an undistinguished contribution when finally free of suspension at the European Championship, he missed the first three games of the international season and has recently looked and sounded like someone not only raring to test himself against the best, but in better condition to do so.

Admitting to "a great feeling" at having overtaken names as revered as Tom Finney, Nat Lofthouse and Alan Shearer in the list of England goalscorers, he said of the next test: "We have to move on from this victory and we know it will be a tough game. I think if we play with the enthusiasm, belief and determination we showed, then we will be fine. It will be tough but we will be going in there confident."

The unexpected bonus of Ukraine dropping two points against Moldova, who England had beaten 5-0, means that a draw against Poland on Tuesday would hardly be a bad result, something of which the dressing-room appears to be well aware. "Sometimes a draw can be the point that takes you through," Rooney said. "We know Poland are a good counter-attacking team and we will have to deal with that."

He will happily hand the captain's armband back to Steven Gerrard, but appears to have enjoyed the experience of leading the team and would like the chance again: "As a young player, your dream is to play for England and once you do actually play, the next step is to try and captain your country. I've done it, it's a great honour, a great feeling, and hopefully one day it can be full-time."

Celebrating a 27th birthday on Wednesday week, he has five years on Gerrard and seven on the other captaincy candidate Frank Lampard, which should mean further opportunities at a future date if he keeps himself fit. His other incentive is the possibility of becoming the first Englishman to reach 50 international goals. As our table shows, to do so at his present scoring rate, taking two- and-half games per goal, he would eventually have to match Peter Shilton's record haul of 125 caps. Given his history of injuries, a further 48 appearances looks a stiff challenge, and the best way to threaten Bobby Charlton's 49 goals would be to step up his scoring rate.

Roy Hodgson's main concern is his form and there was encouragement in that. "The good thing is now I'm seeing the best of Wayne Rooney," the manager said. "Maybe when he was playing for me in the earlier games, for various reasons perhaps he wasn't at his best. I've got to hope he stays at his best and he stays healthy and continues to do what he's doing for Manchester United. All the time I've been with him and during the Euros I don't think he was as sharp as he is now. Wayne would be the first to say that. But in terms of his commitment and desire, he's every bit the same man as he was then. I'm not naive and I do know what has happened in the past, but I prefer not to think too much about that and try to judge him on my experiences."

One penalty shoot-out aside (officially it goes down as a draw), Hodgson's England are unbeaten in 10 games, with seven wins. "It's been difficult because in the Euros we were up against top teams and we had our backs to the wall, but since then I think we have played some quite good attacking football," he said. "There are going to be lots of twists and turns ahead because we are not in an easy group and there are teams who can cause us more problems than San Marino." One of them awaits in two days' time.

England's greatest goalscorers

Wayne Rooney: How far can he go?

Age 27 (on Wednesday week)

Caps 77

Goals 31

Games per goal 2.5

The players to beat

Michael Owen (40 gls)

Youngest England player of the 20th century (later beaten by Rooney) when he burst into team in 1998, making his mark at the World Cup that summer. Last of his 89 caps came away to France in March 2008.

Jimmy Greaves (44)

Stunning ratio of 44 goals in 57 games, including a record six hat-tricks, between 1959 and 1968. Scored 13 in one season (1960-1). But missed 1966 World Cup final after suffering an injury in third group game.

Gary Lineker (48)

After making his debut against Scotland in 1984, Lineker was the leading scorer at the World Cup two years later in Mexico with six. Missed a penalty against Brazil that would have brought him level with Charlton, and finished on 80 caps in 1992.

Bobby Charlton (49)

Scored on his debut away to Scotland in 1958 two months after being involved in the Munich air disaster and added 48 more, including both goals in the 1966 World Cup semi-final against Portugal before retiring with 106 caps. At his current games-per-goals rate, Rooney would need another 48 games to reach 50 and break Charlton's record.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
University Edible Garden, Leeds – a sustainable garden in the centre of the university, passers-by can help themselves to the home-grown produce
news
Arts and Entertainment
There are no plans to replace R Kelly at the event
music
News
newsThis 8-year-old boy carried his disabled brother through a triathlon
Sport
The Manchester United team walk out ahead of the pre-season friendly between Manchester United and Inter Milan at FedExField
transfers
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz