Sir Geoff Hurst knows a thing or two about scoring important goals. He also know
Sir Geoff Hurst knows a thing or two about scoring important goals. He also knows that it's been a long while since the last trophy England won at international level - almost forty years...
It's not difficult, then, to understand why Sir Geoff is getting so excited about Wayne Rooney. He describes the Everton prodigy "the most exciting young talent in years" - and claims the Everton youngster is blazing an inspirational trail for England's next generation of Premiership stars.
He said: "Wayne Rooney is the most exciting young talent we've seen in years and his emergence is hugely exciting to both youngsters and people like myself who have been right through the game.
"Wayne has proved that one of the key factors is to have the desire. If you have the talent and you have that competitive nature to be the best in anything then that coupled with some expert coaching can take you to the top.
"The kids have something to aim at when they see a 17-year-old in an England shirt. When they're young they can't relate so easily to a 25 or 35-year-old - they see someone like Rooney coming through so quickly and they think 'I can do that too'.
"Wayne has matured and is physically strong but I genuinely feel he was ready. Ever since he scored that goal against Arsenal it has been madness but that is part and parcel of the game he is in.
"Each case is an individual one and there are many potential pitfalls, but I think we could see two years ago that Wayne was going to be ready."
Hurst was yesterday casting his eye over the latest Rooney wannabes in Nottingham.
Hurst is spearheading an ambitious drive by The FA and McDonald's to fund the training and deployment of 8, 000 new community-based, FA-qualified coaches over the next four years.
Hurst, McDonald's Director of Football, inaugurated the first 15 graduates on the opening stop on the National Football Tour yesterday. Nottingham itself will see 180 qualified coaches come through the scheme within the next four years.
Hurst insists such schemes which concentrate on five to 11-year-olds are vital if the British game is to roll more Rooneys off its production line.
New Rooneys would be a bonus for the McDonald's scheme which Hurst is keen to stress is fundamentally about securing youngsters playing time in a safe and fun environment.
Hurst added: "Wayne has proved that one of the key factors is to have the desire. If you have the talent and you have that competitive nature to be the best in anything then that coupled with some expert coaching can take you to the top.
"There is an undoubted need for more qualified coaches at grass-roots level who can get kids back to the basics and give them time on the ball.
"When I was a kid we used to play small-sided games in the street and that is essentially what this also is about - being able to give kids that time on the ball again.
"I am still hearing stories about teachers taking kids out onto sports fields and being more concerned with the physical aspects."
Hurst was joined in the scheme by National Football Coach Eric Harrison, the former Manchester United youth team boss.
Meanwhile, England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has accepted that he will face a growing public clamour for Wayne Rooney to start next week's Euro 2004 qualifier against Slovakia.
Wayne was named as sub on Tuesday but his second half appearance was again packed full of skill and excitement.
"I know that he's becoming a big hero among the fans and that's very fair. We'll see whether he starts [against Slovakia]. I don't want to tell the formation for next week yet," he insisted.
"The quality that Rooney has is incredible.
"The first time I picked him, I was asked why. I said that when he gets the ball, he makes things happen. Not every time but many times when he gets the ball, he can beat people, sees the pass or makes a shot.
"Of course, he still has a lot to learn as he's only 17 years old," said Eriksson.
"You can't expect one 17-year-old boy to be a perfect young man in every sense.
"I think he's shy and of course if you're 17 and the manager of a country wants to talk to you, it can't be easy so I never force him to do something like that."
by Daniel Freedman
Place of Birth: Liverpool, England
Date of Birth: 24 October 1985
Weight: 12 05
Height: 5' 10''