England and Manchester United Captaincies Should Bring Best of Wayne Rooney

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England and Manchester United Captaincies Should Bring Best of Wayne Rooney

The England captaincy is a purely ceremonial role.

The captain doesn't pick the team or decide the tactics. He gets to lead the team out and, every now and again, shake Prince William's hand.

But the English obsess more than any other country about who captains their national team. It matters to them.

And it matters to the player with the armband. The strip of elastic with "captain" written on it might be fairly meaningless, but it can be a useful tool. 

It can make a player feel valued, loved, if you like. Some footballers need that—an arm round the shoulder or a little pat on the back.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Wayne Rooney is one of them: always at his best when he's central, playing through the middle when he's on the pitch and a central figure, the big personality in the dressing room.

It's part of his character, an important part of the player he is.

After playing a supporting role to Robin van Persie during the Dutchman's first season at United, Rooney almost left Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson's replacement David Moyes made it a priority to get him back onside and he was eventually handed a new long-term contract. Moyes was rewarded with 19 goals in 40 games from his striker.

Moyes' successor, Louis van Gaal, has already picked him as Manchester United's new captain. He could have chosen Van Persie, his captain at the World Cup, but he put his faith in Rooney instead.

Roy Hodgson has done the same with the England captaincy. He told the media Rooney was the "obvious choice":

I've had a long conversation with him and he's prepared to accept the pressures that the England captaincy brings.

In the two years that we've been working together I've had no reason to question his character, desire to play for the country and wholehearted willingness to offer himself in every situation.

I gave it a lot of thought but Wayne is an obvious choice. He's the right man and he'll show enormous enthusiasm and responsibility.

Van Gaal and Hodgson will hope the gesture can help get the best out of Rooney. 

At 28, he's reached his peak years, a time in his career when he should be at his influential. 

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

And if wearing the captain's armband for club and country helps that in any way, it's a gamble worth taking.

And it is a gamble. Rooney has a history of discipline problems. He can sometimes cross the line between passion and recklessness. He's matured a lot, both on and off the pitch, but that streak is still there. It has to be, or he wouldn't be the same player.

Hodgson and Van Gaal are experienced coaches, and both will know it's a risk to pick Rooney to lead their teams. But they have decided it's one worth taking.

And if it helps in any small way to get the best out of Rooney, it will have paid off. 

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