EMBATTLED Wayne Rooney will spearhead England’s attack in tonight’s Euro 2012 qualifier after convincing manager Fabio Capello his mindset has not been affected by allegations about his private life.
Despite intense public scrutiny Rooney joined the squad in flying out to Switzerland yesterday and is set to start in the same deep-lying forward role in which he flourished against Bulgaria on Friday.
“I spoke with him, he said he was focused and that he wanted to play against Switzerland,” said Capello. “It is good for us that he is here. I am sure tomorrow he will play a really good game, the same level as he was against Bulgaria.
“Rooney will play in the same position because he really liked it. He gets the ball a lot, he can be free to move around the pitch and he can go from the back towards the goal. It is a really important position and you can see how enthusiastic he is.”
Capello rejected suggestions of double standards, having stripped John Terry of the captaincy earlier this year over allegations of infidelity but so far opted not to act on Rooney’s off-field behaviour.
“I never suspended Terry,” the renowned disciplinarian added. “He played all the games. But he was the captain, so we changed it.”
The Italian also dismissed the theory that Rooney’s fear of impending revelations was at the root of his poor World Cup and, by extension, England’s.
“It was not just Wayne Rooney,” Capello said. “We arrived in South Africa at the end of the season and all the English players were tired. The level was not the same as it had been before.”
Switzerland’s experienced coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said he did not expect the controversy to inhibit Rooney’s performance.
He said: “I am no psychologist but Rooney is looking sharp and I am sure he will perform well.”
Sponsors undeterred by negative press
WAYNE ROONEY’S principal sponsors Nike, Coca-Cola and EA Sports are all standing by him despite unwelcome tabloid scrutiny.
Golfer Tiger Woods lost a string of multi-million dollar contracts after his infidelities came to light last year. But a Nike spokesman said: “We have worked with Wayne for seven years and he continues to be a Nike athlete. This is a private matter for Wayne and his family.” Spokespeople for Coca-Cola and EA Sports also said the allegations would not affect their deals.