Euro 2016: Rooney content to draw level with Charlton after short shift

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Wayne Rooney had no problem with manager Roy Hodgson depriving him of a chance to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s England scoring record in San Marino on Saturday.

Rooney scored a 12th-minute penalty to set the Three Lions on their way to this win that secured their qualification for Euro 2016.

The spot-kick was a momentous achievement for Rooney as it brought him level with England’s all-time record goalscorer Charlton, who is one of the captain’s heroes.

Had he not been substituted in the 58th minute, the Manchester United striker would have stood a good chance of scoring a record-breaking 50th goal against the European minnows, who are ranked 193rd in the world.

But Rooney felt the withdrawal made sense with England’s next qualifier against Switzerland taking place just 72 hours later.

“No, to be honest I knew that the most I was going to play was an hour,” Rooney said when asked if he thought he had been taken off too early.

“There is a game coming up on Tuesday. It was a good opportunity for the manager to get a few players on the pitch, so whether I had scored one or three, the most I was going to play was an hour.

“I was just happy to get the goal and the win.”

The fact that his 49th goal was somewhat fortuitous and came against a team containing an accountant, a banking clerk and a ceramics shop worker did not matter to Rooney.

Moving level with England’s World Cup-winning forward was a source of great pride for the United man.

“It’s a proud moment,” the 29-year-old said. “To be there sitting at the top with him in terms of goals is a great achievement and something I’m very proud of.

“Obviously I feel like I’ve got a lot of time left to go on and be the leading scorer, but it’s just a huge moment for me.”

Rooney was as perplexed as the rest of the people in the Stadio Olimpico in Serravalle as to why the penalty was awarded.

At first sight it looked like Leontios Trattou had blown for a push by Marco Berardi on the England captain as James Milner swung his free-kick into the box.

But afterwards San Marino coach Pierangelo Manzaroli said he thought the Cypriot had incorrectly witnessed a handball by one of the home players.

“I have no idea (why it was given),” Rooney said with a chuckle.

“I ran to the front post and something happened behind me, the referee pointed to the spot. I took it and scored.”

Talk of Rooney’s potential to break the record has followed him throughout the qualification campaign, so the former Everton forward was glad to have netted his 49th goal.

He did admit to having last-minute fears about slipping on the recently-laid dry surface, however.

“It was a relief to score because of the pitch,” he said.

“It was a bit weird because I knew the pitch wasn’t great so I had to straighten my run-up a bit for the penalty, so I didn’t slip, and thankfully it went in.”

Being a team player, Rooney was keen to speak about qualification as much as his own landmark.

“It’s a great achievement,” said Rooney, who has captained England in all seven of their qualifying wins.

“Qualifying was our aim after a disappointing World Cup and we have won every game.

“Slovenia and Switzerland away are difficult ties, and we have come through every one.”

Hodgson will look to experiment with his team in the final three European Championship qualifiers after securing England’s place in France.

He has overseen an impressive turnaround since England were eliminated from the World Cup at the group stage last summer.

The Three Lions were the first nation to qualify for the tournament, after winning all seven of their games. They are the only nation to boast a 100 per cent record and are now unbeaten in 12 matches.

The temptation is there to stick with the same faces that guided England to the tournament in the remaining three matches, but Hodgson would prefer to tinker with his squad and test new ideas so he has alternatives in mind for next summer.

“I’m not sure early qualification gives us any particular advantage because we are going to take a lot of time to plan and improve anyway,” said the England manager, whose next test comes tomorrow at home to Switzerland.

“What it could do is give me the opportunity for experimentation because we did not get that ahead of the World Cup when we had to win our last two qualifiers to get to Brazil.”

In the second half of last season Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley impressed sufficiently to break into Hodgson’s World Cup squad, and it seems places are up for grabs for Euro 2016 too despite England’s impeccable qualifying record.

This could be good news for the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, who started his first England game in three years on Saturday.

Although the calibre of opposition was extremely poor, Shelvey performed well at the heart of midfield, an area where Hodgson is short of options.

The Swansea midfielder set up Harry Kane for England’s fifth.

Rooney’s fellow Everton youth product Ross Barkley notched his first international goal while Theo Walcott bagged a brace and Cristian Brolli scored an own goal.

Slovakia were the only other side to have a 100 per cent record in qualifying going into Saturday’s game, but Spain ended their run with a 2-0 win in Oviedo to usurp them at the top of Group C.

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