Saturday 19 October 2002. That was the date that Wayne Rooney made a name for himself in English football when he scored the winner for Everton to end Arsenal’s 30-game unbeaten run.
The boy wonder was only 16 years at the time – the youngest goalscorer in Premier League history at the time. Five months later and the Everton teenager has scored for England, also the youngest-ever goalscorer at the time (since broken by Theo Walcott).
Nearly 12 years on and Wayne Rooney is hunting down Sir Bobby Charlton’s record as England’s all-time top goalscorer. The Manchester United legend and 1966 World Cup winner scored 49 goals for the Three Lions during his career.
Wayne Rooney is on 42 goals for the national team after converting a penalty in England’s 5-0 win over San Marino on Thursday. The England captain does not turn 29 until November. With several years ahead of him – surely Rooney is going to become the first Englishman to hit 50 goals at international level?
England’s next qualifiers are in Estonia and then hosting Slovenia on November 15. The visitors to Wembley Stadium next month may be considered the only nation who could possibly stop England topping the qualifying group following their victory over Switzerland on Thursday, which makes it a step up from the San Marino dross earlier this week. If you’re looking for tickets for England’s final competitive game of 2014, check footballtickettrade.com.
Estonia host England on Sunday where the Three Lions are expected to win, and win convincingly. Manager Roy Hodgson had targeted 13 goals for his side over the two games – meaning eight are required in Tallinn.
Rooney can be expected to play the full 90 minutes as he currently serves a suspension with Manchester United, putting him out of domestic action. The opportunity to add to his goals tally looks encouraging, although their opponents have only conceded one goal in their 180 minutes of qualifying, albeit to opponents much lower-ranked than England.
With future qualifiers against Estonia (home and away), Lithuania (home and away), San Marino (away), Slovenia (home and away) and Switzerland (home), it wouldn’t be out of the question for Rooney to break Charlton’s record before the Euro 2016 finals themselves.
As for Rooney leaving behind a legacy. He’s been England captain, he’s currently one of only five players to have scored at least 40 international goals. He exploded onto the scene at Euro 2004 before being stamped on and subsequently injured in the quarter-finals.
Since then, Rooney’s performances at international tournaments have certainly been questioned. It took him until this summer’s World Cup to finally break his duck. The Manchester United striker certainly won’t go down amongst the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Bobby Moore and Paul Gascoigne – but he’ll certainly go down as one of the best this country has produced.