Rooney can handle the flak, says England boss Hodgson (and he should know)
22:52 GMT, 6 October 2012
Roy Hodgson is certain Wayne Rooney is tough enough to cope with the intense scrutiny that surrounds him.
Rooney has returned to the England
squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and
Poland after recovering from the gashed thigh he suffered on Manchester
United duty in August.
Back in action: Wayne Rooney has recovered from a gashed leg
It will be the first time he has played for his country since Euro 2012, for which he was initially suspended, then decidedly lacklustre when the 26-year-old was eventually clear to play.
Rooney's displays, plus an ill-advised pre-tournament trip to Las Vegas have earned further condemnation.
'He's absolutely strong enough mentally, there is no question about that,' said Hodgson.
'We all have to live with headlines – some of them of our own making.
'Young players get a lot of leeway, when you get into the team your performances are judged kindly.
'Then you become an established player, then a top star when people think you are going to win the game – and judgements change.
'Suddenly all the good things are shrugged off.'
Wayne Rooney of England
Hodgson's assessment is simple. If you can't deal with it, you are not a top player.
And he has no doubts Rooney is a top player.
'Wayne is a player of exceptional ability,' he said.
'But we put players like that under an enormous amount of scrutiny and pressure.
'The moment he doesn't play like a genius we want to write him off as being hopeless. That is very unfair.
'Football doesn't give you the opportunity to be magnificent every time you step on to a field.'
Hearing Hodgson delivering his answers in such measured tones makes you wonder how he ended up enduring such a difficult week.
Fabio Capello's lack of finesse in dealing with team matters was legendary, the brutal manner of communication partly due to his lack of English and partly because that was the style he preferred.
Hodgson is both avuncular and intelligent.
Yet here he is, botching Rio Ferdinand's exit from his latest squad, first of all by allowing coach Gary Neville to debate it in on TV, then by speaking about it to random punters on the Tube.
'I'm on tube trains walking round London, he's on the TV,' said Hodgson.
'I rarely see what Gary says but I trust him implicitly to say the right things and to be very cautious.
'If he makes a mistake on occasion I'll put him on the same category as myself.'
The Football Association can hardly refute the claim Hodgson messed up on the Jubilee Line, after all, the man himself admitted that.
Up for a chat: Hodgson speaks to fans on the tube
However, it is genuinely relaxed about Neville's TV work for Sky, as Club England managing director Adrian Bevington outlined.
'When we hired Gary we were very clear in the knowledge that he is an employee of Sky and will be participating in football programmes throughout the season,' said Bevington.
'From our point of view it is not a problem.
'He always makes sure he is fully up to speed with any issues before he goes on air and we work very closely as a group.
'Gary is a measured person and we think he's doing a fantastic job.'
Hodgson will hope not to make a similar mess of England's forthcoming games, particularly the trip to Poland given his side dropped two points to Ukraine last time out.
San Marino are up first though.
Rated joint bottom of FIFA's rankings, with only one win and three draws in their entire 22 year history, and beaten 13-0 by Germany in the Euro 2008 qualifiers.
Hodgson cannot adopt the usual diplomatic fall-back of saying there are no easy games in international football when this is one.
'We already have two senior players rested due to suspension and adding to that number is a consideration without a doubt,' said Hodgson.
'We do have to be very careful.
'The San Marino game is the most important at the moment as it's the first we play and we need to win it.
'We should beat them and I accept we are favourites but I'm also thinking it will be a damn sight harder than people think and we'll have to do our job.'