Greaves, Lineker and Charlton – Rooney can join England elite

Wayne Rooney.
Wayne Rooney.
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september may have ended ignominiously for Wayne Rooney, but the onset of October should have provided him with plenty of succour.

The England captain, who leads the Three Lions for the first time in a ‘competitive’ international at Wembley this evening against easybeats San Marino, will be mindful of how the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – and October in particular – has seen him blossom on the goalscoring stage.

The Manchester United striker, coolling his heels domestically after being sent off for a reckless challenge on Stewart Downing at Old Trafford on September 27, has netted in his last four international outings this calendar month.

All told, Rooney has plundered 10 of his 41 goals for England in October, albeit with some strikes being bigger than others.

Rooney struck in the 2-0 victory over Poland just under 12 months ago which booked a berth at this summer’s World Cup and in the 4-1 win over Montenegro just prior to that.

If Rooney needs an omen ahead of tonight’s game, he has one. Not that he should really require it against a side jointly ranked as the worst team in the world by Fifa – below Bhutan, Anguilla and the Cook Islands.

Rooney, who celebrates his 29th birthday later this month, was made captain by Roy Hodgson on the last occasion San Marino came to Wembley almost exactly two years ago when both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were unavailable.

The Scouser crowned wearing the captain’s armband with two goals on an evening which saw him become England’s fifth highest scorer in a routine 5-0 win in a World Cup qualifier, with his second strike edging him ahead of Nat Lofthouse, Sir Tom Finney and Alan Shearer.

Tonight, another Three Lions legend in the shape of Jimmy Greaves is within immediate striking distance of Rooney.

The Spurs and Chelsea goal-poacher fired 44 goals in 57 internationals, with Rooney currently three behind him and entitled to envisage making inroads.

Rooney is eight behind England’s all-time leader Sir Bobby Charlton and regardless of his duties leading the side, personal kudos and milestones are understandably in his mind. It is something he briefly alluded yesterday before taking out his captaincy ‘straight bat’.

On being within close proximity of Greaves, Rooney, no doubt also mindful of Sunday’s Group E game against 81st-placed world ranked side Estonia in Tallinn, Rooney acknowledged: “It is there. There’s no denying it.

“Jimmy Greaves is there and if I can overtake him this week, in the coming weeks, the coming months, that would be great.

“But it is not something going into the game (I am) thinking: ‘Oh, I have got to beat Jimmy Greaves’ record to get close to Bobby Charlton’.

“I am wanting to do well for the team and if I can score goals then great and the most important thing for us is to perform well and to win the games.”

The extra responsibility of captaincy sat well with Rooney two years ago, with his partnership also flourishing with then club mate Danny Welbeck, who also struck twice in that 2012 win over San Marino.

Ahead of that game, just as now, Rooney was forced to field questions about his at times fiery on-pitch disposition on the eve of leading his country, but it ended with the right sort of headlines for himself and Welbeck.

The stage is perfectly set for both to fill his boots this evening with Welbeck heading into the game on the back of some impressive performances for new club Arsenal, more especially scoring his first professional hat-trick for the Gunners against Galatasaray.

That was his second blue-riband contribution of the season for club and country, with the Mancunian also showing the poise and talent that has been somewhat infrequent in many big games during his early part of his career in his brace in the opening qualifying win against the Swiss last month.

Not that Rooney is any doubts about Welbeck’s pedigree.

He said: “Danny is a fantastic footballer. As he plays week in, week out for Arsenal, he will prove what a good footballer he is.’