From “wonder kid” to “caring captain”, Wayne Rooney hailed by Roy Hodgson on eve of 100th England cap

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From the outside, observing the hubbub around the England national team can be both perplexing and overwhelming. From the “club or country” arguments to the “Player X had a good game on Saturday against Sunderland, so should be be called up?” debates, it’s intense and often enjoyable (before even considering the “Soccernomics” argument that perhaps the English team has been overachieving for quite some time).

And Wayne Rooney is at the center of this storm. The 29-year-old English captain was the nation’s best player in a disastrous World Cup run that saw the country dismissed in group play, and is as much a magnet for argument for country as he is at Manchester United.

Along the way, though, he has accumulated 99 caps for his country since bursting on the scene as a 17-year-old against Australia in 2013. On the occasion of his 100th cap, expected to come Saturday against Slovenia, England coach Roy Hodgson has done a nice job of summing up his international career in one batch of quotes.

From the BBC:

“He has had a turbulent career in many ways. I think that has given him an incredible maturity and mental strength that we will need going forward.”

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live, Hodgson added: “He burst on to the scene as the wonder kid. He was the saviour of English football.

“And he has had to suffer the slings and arrows because of the times when, of course, he has not been able to be the saviour of English football and people have criticised him for it.”

Hodgson goes on to describe Rooney as a “caring” captain who takes his role with the arm band “unbelievably seriously.” While his strike rate sits a bit below his Manchester United production, he’s been a productive player for England and one who has likely been given more grief than he deserves (even considering his relative propensity for red cards). He had a down 2010 World Cup, one that earned him more acrimony than he likely deserves, but year-in and year-out he’s produced fairly well for the Three Lions. Savior? Not quite, but one player doesn’t save a team (See: Ronaldo, Cristiano and Portugal).