JAMES MILNER has assured Wayne Rooney he will be a welcome presence in the England team tomorrow night.
Despite speculation to the contrary, it seems Rooney will be in Fabio Capello’s starting line-up for the Euro 2012 qualifier with Switzerland in Basle.
Rooney has been the subject of intense scrutiny in his private life in two Sunday newspapers and there was a feeling he would ask to be allowed home in order to try and patch up his relationship with wife Coleen.
However, FA sources have confirmed they expect the 24-year-old to be aboard this morning’s flight from Luton.
He remained at the team hotel in Watford on Saturday night and trained at Arsenal’s London Colney base yesterday morning.
And, for all the off-field worries, Milner is adamant England are a better side if Rooney remains where he is.
“You want your best players out on the field and he’s one of those,” said Milner.
“He is top player. He showed that Friday and I am sure he will continue to show that.”
Although it is now 11 games since Rooney last scored for his country, a run that stretches back to the World Cup hammering of Croatia at Wembley 12 months ago, the Manchester United star claimed three assists in Friday’s 4-0 destruction of Bulgaria at Wembley and had a major role in England’s other goal.
Capello will want to be sure his number one striker remains in the right frame of mind for tomorrow night’s game, the start of a week that concludes with an always fraught trip to former club Everton.
However, on ability alone, he is an automatic choice.
“Wayne did the full session this morning,” confirmed Milner.
“That’s all I can tell you. You are going to have to ask him the other questions. It has been business as usual this morning. We are back to football. That is what we are here to do.”
Rooney’s problems do rather take the edge off England’s encouraging performance on Friday and, in the wake of recent stories about John Terry, which cost him the captaincy, and Peter Crouch, show how voracious is the appetite for stories about the nation’s most high-profile footballers.
And Milner acknowledges they must not be allowed to distract the England squad from their most immediate task.
“We have got to make sure things don’t affect us,” he said.
“Things are always being said in the paper, good and bad, about the England team.
“That is part and parcel of football. The only thing that matters is what happens on the field. We just have to make sure we get the result.
“Winning matches is the only thing that matters.”
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