Wayne Rooney returns for England's crucial Euro 2012 game against Ukraine
One look into the eyes of Wayne Rooney has convinced England captain Steven Gerrard that the striker is ready to make an impact at Euro 2012 after ending his two-game suspension.
Rooney was ruled out of the opening two games against France and Sweden after his sending-off in the qualifier against Montenegro in Podgorica eight months ago.
But head coach Roy Hodgson has confirmed Rooney will start tonight’s meeting with co-hosts Ukraine and Gerrard believes he will help England reach the quarter-finals.
Gerrard said: “Everyone knows what Wayne Rooney is all about. He certainly makes us a lot more threatening going forward and he is a world-class player.
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“I know Wayne quite well, I am very close to him and I can see in his eyes that he is itching to get out there and perform.
“Hopefully he can play very well and be the difference.
“I’m not going to tell Wayne not to be fired up for this game. That is what Wayne is all about, pressing, being aggressive in the right way.
“The reason he is world class is because of what he has shown up to now.
“Obviously we need him on the pitch. He is aware of that and he regrets the reaction when he got the suspension. I am sure he will behave himself well.”
Hodgson echoed Gerrard’s sentiments and said: “I’m sure Steve and the other players will be keen to remind him of what we require from him is a good team performance.
“We want him to help us and make us a better team, to help us win the game of football.
“I’ve been very impressed with the way he has gone about his work in training, talking to some of the younger players, and playing a major part as one of the senior players in the group.
“He knows how important the occasion is, not just for himself but, more importantly, he knows how important it is for his team-mates.”
Hodgson admits he faces a difficult decision in deciding whether to axe Andy Carroll or Danny Welbeck, who both scored against Sweden, to make way for Rooney.
He said: “It has become a very difficult choice because both have done so well, in friendly matches before we came to the tournament, and in the tournament itself.
“They have given me the classic manager’s headache, but it is the headache we all want really, players in form, playing well and competing for a place.
“I have made it clear that Wayne will start the game so that decision has to be made and I shall make it.”
Hodgson is content that expectation levels are rising in England after the opening two games, but he can give no guarantee of success even though a point will ensure a last-eight spot.
He said: “You try and play football, and international football, to try and get carried away. Dreaming is what football is about.
“I think we’ve got to be happy that expectations have risen and people are maybe thinking we can go a bit further than when we started the competition.
“That doesn’t mean to say we can guarantee success or fulfil those expectations.
“It is nice to know after the first couple of games there is a bit more belief in the team and the team has belief in itself.
“But we are talking about individual matches and cup finals. A lot of things can happen in 90 minutes that you cannot control.
“We’ve already seem some very good teams go out of this competition, but at least we feel now we’ve given ourselves a chance.”
Hodgson also expects England’s players to cope with the atmosphere in the Donbass Stadium.
He said: “I don’t need to tell the players too much in that respect because I’m dealing with players who play for the top teams and play regular Champions League football.
“They are playing every week in these type of stadia and regular away matches in such atmospheres.
“I don’t need to remind them the fans will be supporting Ukraine rather than England.”
Hodgson has a clean bill of health in his squad with Theo Walcott available after a hamstring niggle.
He added: “Whether he is a contender for a starting position will depend upon what the medical people can tell me and how much guarantee they can give me that if I do start him he won't be leaving the field after five minutes.”
Hodgson also confirmed the affected hamstring was the same one that forced Walcott to miss the climax to Arsenal’s season.