England captain Wayne Rooney has revealed he spent several years learning about his new midfield position from the likes of Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes.
Rooney is the country’s record goalscorer, having struck 52 times, but he has given way to younger legs at Euro 2016, dropping into a deeper playmaker role for the first time in his 13 years of international football.
The early results have been promising, with Rooney’s wide range of passing and positional discipline instrumental against Russia and Wales.
And the 30-year-old says he has been picking up tips along the way from some of the very best.
“It was always going to happen. I think I said it when I was about 24 that one day I would go back into midfield and that has happened over the last couple of months,” he said.
“I have played with some of the best midfielders England has produced in Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes and I’m not so naive to play with those players and not notice what they were doing, knowing that one day I would be playing in that position.
“I have watched them when playing with them and training with them and I have tried to take bits from each of them and add my own way of playing.”
Rooney had some acclimatisation prior to arriving in France, having been used in a similar way by Louis van Gaal at the end of his Manchester United tenure.
And he has come to appreciate the change of emphasis to his more familiar role as a No. 9.
“I am enjoying my role at the minute. I think you are involved in the game more,” he said.
“As a striker most of the time you have your back to goal, but in midfield you are mostly facing the goal.
“It’s a different role, a different position and different discipline you have to have in your game.”
Hodgson, who initially seemed reluctant to follow Van Gaal’s lead, has now seen the benefit of deploying his most experienced head in the engine room.
With Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge all vying to play as centre forwards, and 18-year-old Marcus Rashford coming up on the rails, it may now be a permanent conversion.
“When you have a midfield player who is capable of playing the role that Wayne is playing at the moment, his vision and passing ability is a great asset to the team,” said Hodgson.
“It means you have a goalscorer in that position and Wayne is more than capable of coming from those positions, because he isn’t playing as a defensive midfielder, and scoring goals.
“We think that when we can use him there, we are adding a goalscorer to the team, but we are not losing anything in terms of our creativity or work-rate — areas of Wayne’s play which I hope don’t go unnoticed.
“We don’t ignore the experience and work-rate he brings to the team. He has always done that. Even now he is in a position which gives us the chance for some of the younger guns up front to show when they can do.”
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