Belfast Telegraph

Wayne Rooney staying central to Roy Hodgson's plans

By Rory Dollard

Roy Hodgson is delighted with both Wayne Rooney's midfield displays and how the England captain is confounding the doubters at Euro 2016.

No longer the exciting, unfettered striker that burst onto the international scene, much of the focus ahead of the tournament was how best to utilise the 30-year-old's talents.

Rooney ended the season in Manchester United's midfield and was unsuccessfully trialled as a deep-lying forward with Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane splitting either side in the final warm-up friendly against Portugal

That ineffectiveness saw questions over his place grow, but Hodgson's decision this week to deploy the country's all-time top scorer in midfield for the first time on the international scene has paid dividends.

Rooney's game intelligence, vision and passing range saw him impress in the 1-1 draw against Russia and Thursday's Group B clash with Wales, when the captain's experience helped England secure a dramatic 2-1 comeback win.

"The importance of Wayne Rooney (against Wales) is not only in his offensive qualities and it's nice to have a player like him in your team in midfield because he's still a goalscorer," Hodgson said.

"We're happy with the composure he brings to the team, we're happy with the calmness at times when it gets a bit frantic when you're chasing equalisers and a winner. His long crossfield passes have always been a feature of his game."

Thursday's enthralling win means England only need to draw against Slovakia on Monday to be sure of qualification from Group B.

Belfast Telegraph