Rooney to keep calm and carry on
England captain Wayne Rooney insists the flashes of temper that scarred the early period of his football career are a thing of the past.
With Steven Gerrard ruled out through suspension and Frank Lampard missing with a knee problem which leaves him doubtful for Tuesday's crucial trip to Poland, Rooney will inherit the armband against San Marino on Friday night.
The 26-year-old is a logical choice, although some did feel Joe Hart would have been less of a risk given Rooney's past indiscretions.
His crime sheet includes two four-letter tirades at TV cameras, one after England's awful goalless draw with Algeria in Cape Town at the last World Cup, and also the needless dismissal in Montenegro last year that led to him being suspended for the first two matches of England's Euro 2012 campaign.
The negative impact of that behaviour did not become fully apparent until Roy Hodgson's side reached Poland and Ukraine, and Rooney's two sluggish displays.
Now as the 26-year-old assumes even greater responsibility beyond simply being England's best player, Rooney is confident there will be no repeat.
"What happened in Montenegro was stupid," he said. "I regretted it as soon as I'd done it.
"It won't be happening again, I can promise.
"The thing against Algeria was partly to do with looking for a way to justify my own performance.
"Since then, I've matured more as a player and a person.
"I have cut out a lot of the silly tackles and mistakes I made as a young player.
"I don't want to be making the wrong type of headlines and missing games I don't want to be missing."
Although a combative individual by instinct, it is easy to think of Rooney being a leader through deed rather than word.
However, the example he immediately comes up with when asked which captain has inspired him the most is someone who had a temper as ferocious as his legendary will to win.
"Roy Keane, without doubt," he said.
"He was a great captain, vocal on the pitch and helpful off it.
"He didn't scare me. I respected him. He was one of the best players in the Premier League and Manchester United history.
"When he had a go at me, I wanted to show what I can do.
"Sometimes when you want to win, it's not always about sitting down and talking quietly.
"You have a go at each other to try. He was the same with senior players as he was with the younger ones.
"He wasn't afraid to tell anybody how he wanted them to play."
It is three years since Rooney led England in a friendly defeat by Brazil in Doha.
At the time, it seemed Fabio Capello only gave him the job because he asked.
Indeed, it never felt as though Capello fully understood the English fixation with who wore the armband, which makes it such a surprise the Italian ultimately resigned over the decision to strip John Terry of it.
Hodgson gets it though, and he seems to have laid down a marker for the post Gerrard era, which could come after the World Cup in 2014.
"It's a fundamental part of the English culture," said Hodgson.
"I go back to Bobby Moore or Billy Wright.
"Maybe it's not the case in other countries. Here the captain has iconic status."
Yet there is undoubtedly an argument to say England are demanding too much of their talisman.
Inspiration should not be required against the world's joint worst team tomorrow, but if the Three Lions are struggling against San Marino, Rooney will be required to rally the troops and score the goals.
It is a heavy responsibility - but one Hodgson is confident the Manchester United man can carry.
"The expectations for Wayne, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are a bit higher than those playing their third, fourth or fifth game," said Hodgson.
"It's a cross top players have to bear.
"But I had no hesitation thinking Wayne could handle it and it didn't occur to me to give the captaincy to anyone else. He deserves it."
Rooney, meanwhile, believes that an early goal is crucial when England take on minnows San Marino on Friday.
He said: "I've played at club level against lower league teams in cup competitions, and they do make it difficult for you.
"They get players behind the ball, so you have to break them down. The key is to get an early goal. Then we can kick on from there."