Wayne Rooney may be on the verge of becoming England’s all-time leading scorer, but he will feel a sense of under-achievement if he ends his career without a major trophy.
Rooney will rewrite the history books today if he scores two goals to move ahead of Sir Bobby Charlton in the all-time scoring charts.
The England captain could not have wished for an easier opponent to come up against.
San Marino are known as the punch bags of European football for a reason. The tiny republic can boast a population of just over 31,000 and have only won one match in their history.
Talk of breaking records has followed Rooney wherever he has gone since he started to near Charlton’s 49-goal tally, so he will be something of a relieved man when he finally finds the two goals he needs.
“It has kept coming up over the last few matches so it’ll be nice to finally do it and put it to the back of my mind,” Rooney said.
“It’s not something I’ve talked about. All of a sudden I was in touching distance.
“It’s great to have this opportunity.”
The calibre of opposition may be poor, but should Rooney find the brace he needs today, it should not take the gloss off what would ultimately be a fine achievement.
The Manchester United forward is in esteemed company alongside Gary Lineker on 48 goals and just further down the list stand greats like Jimmy Greaves, Alan Shearer and Michael Owen.
The fact that it is Charlton, a United great who has always been there for Rooney during his often tumultuous 11-year spell at Old Trafford, makes the record even more special for England’s captain. Charlton is an idol to Rooney and everyone around him in the United set-up.
“He’s always in the dressing room after games helping all the players,” Rooney said.
“He is always going round and speaking to them. It’s good for the new lads to see someone of his status and get words of advice from someone like him.”
Rooney may have been on the winning side in a Champions League final, won the Premier League five times and the League Cup twice, but there is one winner’s medal he is missing that Charlton has in his possession.
To achieve ultimate recognition as a great of the game, Rooney feels he needs to be part of an England team that wins a major trophy.
“Up to a couple of years ago, people were saying (Lionel) Messi wasn’t (Diego) Maradona because he hadn’t won the World Cup. In my mind, Messi is a better player than Maradona,” Rooney said.
“That’s how football is. It’s about trophies you win.
“As a team, that’s how you’re judged. Sir Bobby did that. Hopefully there’s still time for me to be successful like that.”
When Rooney scored his first England goal 12 years ago this weekend, it seemed highly likely he would achieve his goal of tournament success with the national side.
But the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ failed to deliver on the biggest stage and now England are regarded as big outsiders for success at Euro 2016.
Rooney’s last successful tournament for England was Euro 2004. He insists he has not buckled under pressure at major championships even though he did not score at a World Cup until last summer.
“I didn’t feel I was carrying the expectations (of the nation),” Rooney said.
“We had Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes and David Beckham – all world-class players.
“I didn’t feel, going into a tournament, ‘I’ve got to win it for England’.
“We had a good team. In 2004 and 2006, we were unlucky not to progress into the latter rounds.”
Having been part of that failed generation, Rooney does not get the same respect as the likes of Charlton or Sir Geoff Hurst.
That does not matter one jot to the former Everton striker, however.
“It’s not something I’m too fussed about,” Rooney said.
“As long as my managers and my team-mates understand and respect the job I do for them, the day they turn round and say they don’t is the day it’ll bother me. In terms of what other people think it doesn’t really concern me.”
Roy Hodgson and the Football Association have reprimanded Sheffield-born Jamie Vardy for his racist slur, but the former FC Halifax Town striker will still make his full England debut against San Marino today.
Vardy is one of three players Hodgson has revealed will definitely start, the others being John Stones and Jonjo Shelvey.
Full story: Page 3.