Gerrard backs Rooney to do his talking on the pitch for England
Steven Gerrard insists the only thing that has changed about Wayne Rooney is his hair.
Gerrard has remained close to Rooney since the Manchester United forward first broke on to the scene as a raw teenager.
In a sense, they are kindred spirits given their Merseyside background and the amount of headlines they are capable of generating.
Gerrard has even found himself in the position Rooney is now, having been the subject of intense interest from Chelsea in 2005, only for the Liverpool skipper to perform a surprise U-turn and remain at Anfield. Now all the attention is on Rooney, who wants to join Chelsea, only for Manchester United to repeatedly insist the 27-year-old is going nowhere.
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Yet Gerrard is adamant Rooney is not ground down by the saga. In fact, seeing him out on the training pitch half an hour early yesterday morning was only in keeping with his general approach to life.
“His hair has changed,” said Gerrard. “He hasn’t. He hasn’t changed at all.
“I remember watching DVDs of Gazza, with Bobby Robson talking about him always kicking a ball around the hotel because he couldn’t wait to get on the training ground. That’s who I would compare him to because Wayne Rooney is exactly the same.”
Indeed, rather than a further distraction in a turbulent period of his life, Gerrard believes England’s high-profile friendly with Scotland at Wembley this evening is exactly what the forward needs.
“This game is great for Wayne,” said Gerrard.
“There is a lot of media attention on him at the moment because of his club situation but he has got the chance to get some much-needed minutes under his belt and to play for England. That will be a release for him.”
Gerrard recalled his own situation, and other points in his life when he has found himself in tough off-field situations, and claimed the football pitch is akin to an oasis in the desert.
“The best thing when there is a pressure on you is to be out on the pitch because it all gets parked up and is a welcome release,” he said.
“I’ve been in the situation where I’ve had issues going on off the pitch. You just want to play. When the game starts it is fine. You are not thinking about what is going on in your personal life. You are just thinking about the opposition and doing as well as you can.”
Nevertheless, the pair have spoken “as mates”, but Gerrard insists it has been purely to gauge Rooney’s general mood in readiness for tonight’s game.
Gerrard sees no problems on that score and neither does he feel it is his place to stick his nose into what is going on at Old Trafford.
“The situation with his club is basically none of my business, so I don’t think I have to,” said Gerrard.
“Wayne is experienced enough now. I know he is looking forward to this game. He has trained well and has been scoring regularly in training.”