Francis calls on Rooney to shine
Former England international Trevor Francis has called on Wayne Rooney to become one of the stars of the forthcoming World Cup.
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Rooney, who is fifth in the all-time list of scorers with 38, will be the main man in Roy Hodgson's squad that travel to Brazil this summer aiming for glory.
The 28-year-old will perhaps go with more motivation than most, hoping to lay the ghosts of two previous harrowing World Cup campaigns.
He suffered a foot injury in the lead up to Germany 2006, which affected his performance and his tournament ended in disgrace when he was sent off in the quarter-final defeat by Portugal.
He did not fare much better in South Africa four years later, again arriving with a lingering injury, and was one of the major disappointments in what was a terrible tournament for Fabio Capello's side, leaving him without a goal in eight appearances at the World Cup.
But Rooney has found his form under Roy Hodgson, scoring 10 goals in his last 15 games for his country, and Francis, winner of 59 caps and a key member of England's 1982 World Cup campaign, now wants him to do it on the biggest stage of all.
"I am sure he would like to have a good World Cup and we would all, as a great footballing nation, like to see Wayne Rooney become one of the stars of this World Cup because if he does that would enhance our chances of progressing much further in the competition," he told Press Association Sport.
"He has been and will be a player of great importance to us and we are hoping that he will produce the form he is capable of and if he does that he will be big asset."
Domestically, Rooney finds himself in a Manchester United side that is struggling to adjust to life after Sir Alex Ferguson.
Rooney's performances have at least been one bright point for David Moyes and Francis does not believe United's predicament will have any affect on the striker's faring in the summer.
"It hasn't affected his performances as player for Manchester United, he has been their best player this season," Francis said. "If he keeps playing well he can have a great World Cup."
Francis does believe, however, that England's chances will be severely harmed by the absence of Theo Walcott, who will miss out after suffering a serious knee injury in January.
"It's a big blow. He has matured and improved over the last 18 months and prior to his injury he was in the best form of his Arsenal career," Francis added.
"His decision-making has improved, he has become a better crosser of the ball, but his biggest improvement has been his ability to score.
"He has become more clinical in front of goal and no teams enjoy playing against players with the sort of pace he has got so it is a big loss to Roy Hodgson. I just hope there will be no other injuries."
:: Francis was speaking at the launch of the Beko Keepy-Up challenge in Sheffield, where fans of all ages are encouraged to take part. More details can be found at www.beko.co.uk/keepyuppy.