LONDON: The Wembley stage has been set perfectly as England prepare to welcome Switzerland tomorrow: fans will roll up to celebrate England’s achievement in becoming the first team to qualify for the Euro 2016 finals and – hopefully – to see captain Wayne Rooney become the country’s record marksman.
Rooney, after 13 minutes of Saturday’s 6-0 Group F stroll in San Marino, opened the scoring with a penalty which provided his 49th England goal, equalling the record set by Sir Bobby Charlton between 1958 and 1970. Both men needed 106 international appearances; Rooney’s total includes five penalties compared with Charlton’s three.
After an embarrassingly early World Cup exit, England have turned the formbook around to reach France with three matches to spare and after seven wins from seven.
England have gone 12 matches unbeaten for the first time since 1996. Their other goals came from Christian Brolli (own goal), Ross Barkley, Theo Walcott (two) and Rooney’s substitute Harry Kane. Rooney’s prospect of setting the record in Serravalle was ended by manager Roy Hodgson’s decision to substitute him in the 58th minute.
Hodgson, explaining a change not prompted by injury, said: “It was planned with a view to Tuesday. It would be nice if Wayne could get the 50th goal against Switzerland but if not then it might be in November or even 2016. But he’ll get it.
“It’s not as if this was his last and only chance. If this had been his last game for England and he needed one more goal to break the record, I wouldn’t have taken him off.”
Controversy reigns among media and fans over where Rooney deserves to stand as an all-round footballer among England’s all-time top scorers.
Different players, different eras, a different game, of course. But World Cup-winning star Sir Geoff Hurst has no doubt in rating his old team Charlton far above Rooney.
Hurst, who scored 24 goals in 49 games, said: “It’s a great achievement but Wayne is a front player whereas Bobby Charlton scored 49 goals from midfield. It just shows you his astonishing ability.
“It’s not only their ability, it’s what they achieved in the game, and of course Bobby was the member of a World Cup winning team which Wayne’s not achieved yet. There’s that differential.”