England's Wayne Rooney will be at top for decade more, says John Terry

England's Wayne Rooney will be at top for decade more, says John TerryEngland's captain, John Terry, believes Wayne Rooney has another 10 years at the top now that he has found form again and rediscovered his appetite for the game.

Rooney scored twice in England's convincing win in Bulgaria to confirm signs from the Premier League that he is back to his best, and Terry was quick to concede that having such an effective attacking spearhead makes the job easier for the rest of the team.

"Wayne is flying again, he's been excellent all week and he's still very much at the forefront of this side," Terry said. "Everyone has been talking about younger players and older players but Wayne doesn't really fall into either category. He still has an awful lot to give over the next 10 years, I'm very confident of that. He's showed some great early form for Manchester United and just continued that when he linked up with England. He's great to have around the camp as well, he never settles for anything less than winning, even in training, and his enthusiasm rubs off on the younger players."

Rooney has been around so long, since bursting on to the scene as a 16-year-old with Everton in 2002, that it is easy to forget he is still only 25. Terry's forecast may not be all that far-fetched, particularly as by his own admission Rooney is a happier person now than he was in the turmoil of 2010, and is looking conspicuously leaner, fitter, and capable of looking after himself in the manner of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes or Teddy Sheringham. Rooney himself admits he is glad to have his rapport with the England fans back after some differences in South Africa last summer, but though he does not deny his form dipped last year he insists he never fell out of love with the national side.

"I have always loved playing for England, and I will continue to do so until someone tells me I can't," he said in Sofia. "What happened, happened. There's nothing anyone can do to change it, but I'm sure the fans see that when I play I give 110% every game. They were great again in Bulgaria and I thank them for their support. I hope they enjoyed the evening. I certainly enjoyed the game, we had a lot of energy up front and a lot of movement, which made it difficult for the defence to cope with. It was a great win and if we can do it again on Tuesday we have more or less qualified."

If Rooney's re-emergence is the story of the moment, the subplot is the quiet phasing out of the so-called golden generation. Rooney may be able to carry on for many more years, but Frank Lampard was left out of the starting line-up in Sofia, with Fabio Capello ominously remarking it was his job to choose players and not names. With Jack Wilshere still to come back into contention and Scott Parker and Gareth Barry both performing well against Bulgaria there may not be an automatic return even for Steven Gerrard. On the other hand Chris Smalling's assured debut at right-back meant that England could keep defenders of the ability of Phil Jagielka, Micah Richards and Phil Jones in reserve, while Gary Cahill managed to mark his first England start with the opening goal.

"That was a complete bonus," the Bolton Wanderers centre-half said. "Playing so well in defence and keeping a clean sheet was the most important thing for me, but after what I can only describe as a crazy week, with all the transfer speculation, it was close to a perfect ending.

"I only found out I was playing 20 minutes before the game – that's the way the gaffer does things. You can never be certain because there are so many good players in that position. Everyone prepares as if they are going to play.

"It had been difficult to concentrate at the start of the week, when I didn't know what was happening, but once the window shut and I was still a Bolton player it was easy to focus on the England game. The manager didn't ask me how I was feeling, he just left me to my own devices. We are all professional footballers, and you have to be professional about the situation. You have to be mentally strong."

Cahill gave a remarkably composed performance in difficult circumstances, though he was not quite as laid back about scoring on his full debut as his goal celebration might have suggested.

"I saw the ball coming across and I just managed to get it on my chest and stick it in the bottom corner," he explained. "It was a strange feeling, it almost happened in slow motion and I thought this can't be happening, I must be offside. Oddly enough, Wayne Rooney told me he thought the same. So I don't know what it looked like on TV but there would have been a lot more excitement if I'd known the goal was going to stand."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Paul Wilson in Sofia, for The Observer on Saturday 3rd September 2011 22.55 Europe/London

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