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Gerrard hails Rooney return for England

ESPN staff
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Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney will feature for England © PA Photos
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Steven Gerrard is hopeful Wayne Rooney will take the frustration of his earlier suspension out on England's remaining Euro 2012 opponents.

Rooney was missing for England's opening two matches of the tournament following his red card in the Euro qualifier with Montenegro in Podgorica eight months ago. But the Manchester United striker is available for Tuesday's final Group D encounter with Ukraine in Donetsk, with England only needing a point to ensure a quarter-final spot.

"Having Wayne back is a massive bonus for us and increases the attacking options," Gerrard said. "I said before the tournament that the key thing was to try and get ourselves in a good position before Wayne comes back and we've got four points from two games.

"It's a massive boost for the players, supporters, you guys [the media], everyone connected with England, that our main player is going to be back.

"Wayne has been itching to get back. You know what he's like. He loves football, he's been kicking the ball around in the dressing room.

"He can't wait to get out there. You can see in his face that he is disappointed to miss those opening two games. Hopefully we will benefit from that frustration being taken out on our opponents."

Gerrard's sentiments were echoed by England boss Roy Hodgson, who regards himself as lucky to be able to call on the talent of Rooney.

"Wayne is a quality player. I would suggest he is world-class," he said. "I am always wary of giving players epithets but he is a bit special.

"You are lucky, if you are the manager of a national team, to have players of his quality available for selection. I have been a bit unlucky not to have him available. Hopefully that will make life a little bit easier going into the next game where we need another result.

"He hasn't been like a caged animal. He has just been like a very good professional. His training performances have been first-class and [he] has been first-class around the place in terms of encouraging all the players and backing them up. I know there is a myth but it is one I haven't seen any signs of."

Rooney missed the pre-tournament friendly against Norway, and Hodgson revealed the forward had been carrying a minor injury, which Sir Alex Ferguson had managed to keep out of the public domain. Hodgson, though, this week confirmed the injury is no longer an issue.

"I am not worried about Wayne's fitness in any way," he said. "We hope having him back fresh will be a bit of a bonus. He has to get out there and perform. I have every faith that he will.

"The expectation is part of being a top player in an important national team. It is Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Sweden, Andriy Shevchenko for Ukraine, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard for England, Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri for France.

"As a coach there is nothing you can do about that. You just get on with it and trust that these players, who have been putting up with this pressure for a long time, know how to deal with it.

"Wayne won't need reminding that if he plays well on Tuesday everybody will be saying fantastic things about him. If he misses a couple of chances, people will be saying other things. That is the nature of the business. I can't protect him."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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