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Captain Rooney says he has learned

11th October 2012

• Manchester United star stands in for Steven Gerrard
• Striker says he has matured since red card a year ago

Wayne Rooney will lead England out as captain for the first time in a competitive match on Friday night, insisting there will never be a repeat of the “stupid” mistake that saw him sent off for kicking the Montenegro defender Miodrag Dzudovic a year ago, a red card that cost him his place in the side’s first two games at Euro 2012.

The Manchester United striker will wear the armband in the absence of the suspended Steven Gerrard and with Frank Lampard, who had complained of tightness behind a knee at the weekend, having returned to Chelsea for treatment on a minor calf complaint.

Rooney did captain the national team in a friendly against Brazil in Qatar in November 2009, a match Fabio Capello’s team lost 1-0, but spoke of his pride at this opportunity against San Marino, having apparently learned his lesson from the misdemeanour in Podgorica.

“That was a stupid thing to do, and I regretted it as soon as I’d done it,” he said of the kick at Dzudovic. “I apologised immediately to the player and paid the price. I can tell you now it won’t be happening again, that’s for sure. After that, at club level, you’ve seen a different person. I’ve cut out a lot of the silly tackles and mistakes I’d made as a young player. I have no issue with that.”

His disciplinary record in the year since – he has been booked only once in 44 games for club and country – would suggest progress has been made controlling his temper, even if Rooney did also suggest he had matured since his angry criticism of England’s supporters into a television camera after England’s 0-0 draw against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup, an incident which pre-dated the sending off in Montenegro.

“That [reaction] was partly do with my own performance,” he said of the frustration in Cape Town. “I was partly looking for a way to justify my own performance. Since then, I’m a different person and a different player. I’ve matured more as a player and a person, and this is a great responsibility for me to take on.”

The striker will gain his 77th cap against San Marino knowing two more goals would hoist him above Nat Lofthouse’s, Tom Finney’s and Alan Shearer’s tally of 30 for their country, with his manager confident he is the right choice to lead the team.

“I had no hesitation thinking Steven Gerrard could handle the pressure and responsibility this role brings, and it is the same with Wayne,” said Roy Hodgson. “It’s something they have to live with as a top player. It’s a cross you have to bear. But it didn’t occur to me to give the captaincy to anyone else. He deserves it.”

England hope to welcome Lampard and Ryan Bertrand back to the squad on Sunday, when the players reconvene ahead of Tuesday’s more daunting game against Poland in Warsaw. Gerrard and Glen Johnson will also be available after serving one-match bans. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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