Hodgson - Rooney is special
England boss says striker can handle pressure
Last Updated: June 17, 2012 9:48am
Wayne Rooney: Praised by Roy Hodgson ahead of his return to the England team
Roy Hodgson believes he is lucky to have a 'world-class' player like Wayne Rooney in the England squad and is backing the striker to shoulder the burden of expectation.
After completing his two-match suspension by sitting out a thrilling 3-2 win over Sweden, Rooney is now available for the Euro 2012 qualification decider with co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on Tuesday.
As strikers Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck both found the net against Sweden, some wondered whether Rooney's entrance would be delayed.
But Hodgson wasted no time in stating Rooney would be starting, and now he has expanded on his theme.
"Wayne is a quality player. I would suggest he is world-class," he said.
"I am always wary of giving players epithets but he is a bit special.
"You are lucky, if you are the manager of a national team, to have players of his quality available for selection.
"I have been a bit unlucky not to have him available. Hopefully that will make life a little bit easier going into the next game where we need another result."
There have been suggestions that Rooney will be so excited about playing again that he will not be able to control himself and could end up getting sent off, but Hodgson insists there is no need to worry about him losing his discipline.
"He hasn't been like a caged animal," said Hodgson. "He has just been like a very good professional.
"His training performances have been first-class and he has been first-class around the place in terms of encouraging all the players and backing them up.
"I know there is a myth but it is one I haven't seen any signs of."
When England got together for the start of their preparations it emerged that Rooney had been carrying a minor injury, but Hodgson has confirmed there is no longer an issue.
Neither is it a problem for the England boss just how much pressure the forward will be under when he finally takes the field.
"I am not worried about Wayne's fitness in any way," he said. "We hope having him back fresh will be a bit of a bonus.
"He has to get out there and perform. I have every faith that he will. The expectation is part of being a top player in an important national team.
"It is Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Sweden, Andriy Shevchenko for Ukraine, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard for England, Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri for France. That is what it is.
"As a coach there is nothing you can do about that. You just get on with it and trust that these players, who have been putting up with this pressure for a long time, know how to deal with it.
"Wayne won't need reminding that if he plays well on Tuesday everybody will be saying fantastic things about him.
"If he misses a couple of chances, people will be saying other things. That is the nature of the business. I can't protect him."