Gerrard tips Rooney for starring role
England captain Steven Gerrard has no doubt Wayne Rooney can dispel doubts over his temperament and become a major World Cup star.
Rooney heads into tomorrow night's World Cup opener with the United States carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulders but also with fresh questions being raised about his on-pitch conduct following his stormy performance against the Platinum Stars on Monday.
FIFA official Alex Stone has already confirmed that the use of foul language will be regarded as a red and yellow card offence over the next five weeks and, having ended his last World Cup campaign by getting himself sent off against Portugal, Rooney needs to be careful it does not happen again.
But Gerrard has no fears for his long time friend. "People talk about the yellow card he got the other day but that is Wayne Rooney," said Gerrard.
"He is always on the edge. He has got that fire in his belly.
"I know Wayne. I know about his upbringing and his background. We have a good understanding on the pitch because we are quite close off it.
"If Wayne channels his frustrations in the right way he can be one of the players of this tournament."
A fit and focused Rooney would certainly be a significant presence within an England team that has been provided with a present from the front line by Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan.
The Three Lions watched a specially-made DVD wishing Gerrard and his team-mates good luck from Afghanistan.
"It was very moving and touching," said the England skipper.
"They were a mixture of ages, all passionate guys wearing all kinds of different shirts basically taking a couple of seconds each to wish us all the best.
"It made me realise how lucky I am to be here leading the team out in the World Cup.
"It puts everything into perspective and drives you when you realise what kind of support we have and it finally hit home that the matches are round the corner and the support back home is massive."
Gerrard, meanwhile, has spoken of his pride at being England's 10th World Cup captain. Gerrard has followed Billy Wright, Johnny Haynes, Bobby Moore, Mick Mills, Bryan Robson, Peter Shilton, Terry Butcher, Alan Shearer and David Beckham in leading England at the finals.
The Liverpool midfielder has willingly stepped into the role after Rio Ferdinand's knee ligament injury ruled him out and is using it as extra motivation to do himself justice in South Africa.
Gerrard said: "I'd heard there had only been nine previous England captains at the World Cup and it gives me some extra motivation, extra drive.
"I want to be a successful captain. I want to lead the boys as far as I can in this tournament.
"You stop it being a burden by enjoying it and I think the people around me won't allow me it be a burden.
"I've got to use it as a motivation rather than a burden."
Gerrard was the first skipper of the Fabio Capello era, for the friendly international against Switzerland at Wembley.
The 30-year-old believes he will not be any different in terms of the way he skippers the side compared to that 2-1 success in February 2008.
He said: "I am not going to change as a leader compared to the way I do the job at Liverpool.
"I go out and try to lead by example on the pitch. I am not a loudmouth off the pitch.
"But, if any of the players want to lean on me or talk to me about anything, or they want me to go to the manager and speak about anything, I am not shy."
Gerrard feels he will come to the fore as a leader in the final minutes ahead of tomorrow evening's opening game with the United States in Rustenburg. He said: "I think the dressing room will be very lively with an hour to go.
"The coaching staff will be going round with their final bits of information to make sure the preparation is spot on.
"That's when it's my job to make sure the boys are up and ready for it. "I've also got to make sure that I'm ready to do my job properly.
"I'll also check on the younger lads and make sure they're ready. But the final words will come from the manager." Gerrard also knows he can count on the support of senior England players and captains past and present on and off the pitch.
He said: "I am the captain, but I am surrounded by other captains. I have got Stuart Pearce to lean on. Becks is here, Rio is here. John Terry is behind me.
"I am surrounded by good leaders. I will be wearing the armband but it is important that all the lads lead by example."