London: Wayne Rooney needs an Al Pacino moment. That was the verdict of Roy Hodgson, as he assessed the expectations surrounding the striker who is fit, settled and contented, both personally and professionally.
It is 10 years since Rooney went into a major international tournament with each of those factors so clearly in his favour. At the 2004 European Championships in Portugal he was, quite simply, fantastic, scoring four goals before injury cut short his involvement in the quarter final against the hosts. As he disappeared, so did England’s chances.
“You can’t come up with a plan to get a player to give you more than he’s capable of,” Hodgson observed. “You can only hope your attempts to prepare him fall on soil that will allow him to grow.
“Then, when he gets on the field, he’ll feel: ‘Right, I’m Wayne Rooney, I feel good, I’m going to play, I’m going to do the things that made people build me up so high’.”
Having covered horticulture, Hodgson turned his mind to cinema.
“I’m sure it must be the same for Hollywood film stars,” he added. “I’m sure you make your first film and nobody knows much about you and you get some good reviews. But one day you’re going to be Al Pacino, you’re going to be Jack Nicholson. And, suddenly, you’ve got to make a f------ good film. It’s the same with Wayne and he needs that Pacino moment where he will come into his own.”
Hodgson’s expletive was for comic effect. But then there have been so many dramas with Rooney, one of the few England world superstars, that the analogy felt wholly appropriate.
It should also resonate with the player for Rooney has, ultimately, failed to deliver on the biggest stages.
The Manchester United striker may have scored 38 goals for England in just 89 games but he has struggled at every tournament since 2004 with the baggage attached to him becoming a deadweight.
“It gets suggested that he was a disaster in this or that tournament,” Hodgson says. “But to some extent I refuse to go along with that baggage. It’s not me who’s said that his 2004 was great and since then it’s been bad.
“The only thing I would dare talk about Wayne with regard to tournaments is 2012. And there he tried very hard. He wanted it very badly. And he was very hampered by the fact he came into the competition and missed the first two games.
“This time I’m going to see a totally different person. He’s in the best age of his football career. I suppose I could say that if he was terrific in 2004, he should be even better now.”
Meanwhile, Hodgson announced Frank Lampard will be Steven Gerrard's deputy in England squad.