ENGLAND defender Joleon Lescott has backed team-mate Wayne Rooney to rise above any potential animosity when he lines up in Montenegro tomorrow for the first time since he was sent off against the same opposition 18 months ago.
Rooney saw red 73 minutes into a Euro 2012 qualifier in October 2011 after kicking out at midfielder Miodrag Dzudovic in frustration at losing possession and was banned for the first two matches of the finals in Ukraine and Poland last summer.
The Manchester United forward is set to return to the 12,000-capactity Podgorica Stadium when the top two in Group H go head-to-head in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier.
But Lescott feels Rooney has grown up a lot since that fateful night and should have no problem overcoming the red hot reception that is anticipated from Montenegro supporters.
“Wayne is older now. He is more experienced and mature, we all are,” said Lescott.
“We want to be disciplined and professional. With the calibre of players in this squad, I don’t think it will be a problem.
“Montenegro are a very organised team. They are tough to break down, but we are confident.”
Lescott is expected to win his 26th cap tomorrow at the heart of England’s defence. But there could be a change to the back four that started Friday’s 8-0 drubbing of San Marino. Right-back Glen Johnson is available for selection after overcoming a toe injury and is in line to replace Tottenham’s Kyle Walker.
“He could have played [against San Marino], we could even have had him on the bench,” said England manager Roy Hodgson. “But it would have meant an injection and I preferred to continue the treatment so he didn’t have to put a boot on.
“We hope it will get better in the next couple of days.
“If it doesn’t it might need an injection, but there is no problem.”
WAYNE’S RED MIST
FORWARD Wayne Rooney, winner of 80 international caps, has been sent off twice whilst playing for England – more than any other player. The Manchester United star first saw red at World Cup 2006 in a quarter-final against Portugal when he stamped on former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho. And Rooney, scorer of 34 England goals, was sent off against Montenegro in a European Championship qualifier in October 2011 for kicking out at Miodrag Dzudovic.