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Oct 10, 2012

Wayne Rooney ready to step up

Wayne Rooney said he is ready to assume the 'Eric Cantona role' for England and help to nurture his young teammates.

"There are a lot of young players in the squad and I always try to speak to them and offer advice," said Rooney. "I remember Alex Ferguson telling me what a big help Cantona was to all those younger players at United.

"It is something I can try do for England and hopefully help bring the best out of them, as they can bring the best out of me."

Now 26 and with 76 caps to his name, Rooney is regarded as one of the most experienced players within Roy Hodgson's squad.

And, with Steven Gerrard suspended and Frank Lampard struggling to overcome a knee injury, Rooney is in line to captain his country in a temporary role for the first time in a competitive game when they take on San Marino in Friday's World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

And, in a squad slowly evolving, and which has now lost more experience following the unexpected retirement of John Terry, the Manchester United man accepts he has to be the one offering support and assistance, just as Cantona did to current England coach Gary Neville and his colleagues when they broke through at Old Trafford almost two decades ago.

The odd indiscretion excepted, Rooney has matured hugely over the past few years.

The Merseysider has avoided landing himself in the kind of mess Ashley Cole has got himself into when communicating on Twitter. Rooney has in excess of five million followers, the highest figure for a British sports star.

"It is a good way for the fans to see a different side of you," he said of Twitter. "I don't try and get involved because you do get a bit of stick on it and obviously, I know everything I put on there is seen by everyone who follows you and it will be in the newspapers the next day, so I have to be careful.

"I didn't go on it to see how many followers I could get. But it is incredible the amount of support I get."

Yet Rooney said not everyone will appreciate his lifestyle.

And, as quizzical comments were expressed prior to Euro 2012 about a short break he took in Las Vegas, when he once again failed to perform at a major tournament, it was inevitable irritation should give way to anger.

"I could understand where people were coming from," he said. "But I wasn't in Vegas going out every night drinking and partying.

"I went out one night and that was seen but I couldn't train because I had to have something done to my toe. It was just a way to relax.

"I have no problem with the scrutiny but hopefully, in the near future, we will be coming out of a tournament and everyone be praising me because we have won a trophy.

"That would be great for everyone."

The move to St George's Park is supposed to help with that.

Rooney has no complaints about the new £105million state-of-the-art facility near Burton, other than perhaps being put in a room where the inspirational photograph is of Kevin Keegan, whose greatest exploits as a player came when he was at Liverpool.

Instead, the boyhood Everton fan spent more time focussing on the words of swimming champion Ian Thorpe, whose urgings for all athletes never to be found wanting in desire even if their performances are not up to scratch struck a particular chord.

Yet events of recent weeks cannot be entirely ignored despite the obvious desire for a fresh start.

And as the post-Terry era begins, Rooney is happy to accept the Chelsea skipper's absence leaves a big hole for others to fill.

"He was fantastic for us" said Rooney. "JT is an old-fashioned centre-half, who is not afraid to get his foot in.

"Together with Paolo Maldini, he was one of the two toughest defenders I have played against

"He has made his decision to retire and we have to respect it.

"But he will be a loss to us."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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