London: Teenager Wayne Rooney is set to become the youngest player to represent England after coach Sven-Goran Eriksson included the 17-year-old striker in his squad on Saturday for next week’s friendly against Australia.
In-form Southampton striker James Beattie and 19-year-old Newcastle United defender Jermaine Jenas were also called up for the first time for Wednesday’s game at Upton Park.
If, as seems certain, Rooney plays in the match he will, at the age of 17 years and 111 days, beat the previous record of Clapham Rovers’ James Prinsep, who was 17 years old and 253 days old when he played against Scotland in 1879.
Liverpool striker Michael Owen was 18 years and 59 days when he made his debut against Chile in 1998. Eriksson named a 27-strong squad for the game, and included several surprise names.
Rooney is in line for a first cap for his country having made only 26 senior appearances for Everton, during which time he has managed five memorable goals and one red card.
“If I was Wayne Rooney, I should be delighted as it should be one of the biggest things in his career,” Eriksson told reporters at the FA’s headquarters. “I’m sure he’ll respond like that. He’s only 17 but Pele was 17 when he won the World Cup in 1958 in Sweden and he scored twice in the final. “Maybe it was stupid of me to compare him to Pele though. That’s not good for anyone. To be a Pele is extremely difficult.”