Wayne Rooney deserves to be thought of as an England great, national team manager Roy Hodgson said on Friday.
The Manchester United striker is set to win his 100th cap against Slovenia in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Saturday, adding his name to an elite group of eight other players who have made a century of England appearances.
Yet the milestone has been accompanied by debate in British media about whether the forward, who has frequently struggled to produce his best form in major tournaments, can be bracketed among England’s best.
“It is very difficult to summarise in just a few words what makes someone such a great England player that they can amass 100 caps,” Hodgson told a news conference on Friday.
“It is ability but also mental strength and the ability to pick yourself up sometimes when you come under scrutiny and, secondly, an enormous passion to play for your country.
“They take the criticism and the scrutiny, they show the mental strength to come back stronger than ever.
“Any player that has played 100 times for England deserves the label ‘great’,” he added.
Rooney began his international career in 2003 and now sits six goals off Bobby Charlton’s all-time England scoring record of 49 goals.
Yet after failing to score in a major tournament between Euro 2004 and a 1-0 win over Ukraine in Euro 2012, he developed a reputation for flattering to deceive on the big occasions.
Sitting alongside his manager, the striker said he has had to take the rough with the smooth, but still hoped to make an impact on the international stage.
“There have been some good and bad moments,” he said. “It is something I have really enjoyed. It is always a great honour to play for England and something I want to continue doing for many more years.
“The goal is to win trophies but to join the group of players who have won 100 caps is something I’m very proud of.
“I think I can achieve plenty more,” he added.
“It is just about trying to do what I can to help get the team the points on the day. If records come as well, then great. I hope I can do it (beat the
England scoring record) but it is not something that is on my mind at the moment.”
England are top of Group E with a maximum nine points.