Rustenburg: Wayne Rooney has been warned he must keep the lid on his emotions or risk a re-run of the red card misery he endured at the last World Cup.
Rooney’s volatility was on display again in England’s final warm-up match on Monday, a 3-0 win over local club Platinum Stars in which he was booked for dissent and was guilty of several challenges that could kindly be described as over enthusiastic.
Jeff Selogilwe, the match referee, received an apology and Rooney’s shirt after the match. But that did not prevent him from issuing a warning to the Manchester United striker, who was sent off in England’s 2006 quarter-final defeat by Portugal.
“I was very disappointed in Rooney because he is my favourite player,” Selogilwe said.
“He is a good player when you see him on the TV, but when you see him on the pitch, he just keeps on insulting the referees.
“To me it looks like Rooney insults people and fouls other players. If he insults a referee like me then he will use that vulgar language to other referees as well.
“He must learn to control his temper. He could get sent off in the World Cup, especially if he uses this kind of language.”
Rooney’s importance to England was underlined again on Monday when his entrance as a second-half substitute – combined with a half-time rollicking from coach Fabio Capello – sparked a significant improvement in their performance after the interval.
The striker set up Joe Cole for the second goal before scoring the third himself with a fine volley from James Milner’s cross.
Afterwards, Rooney shrugged off concerns over his on the field discipline, insisting he was just raring to get started with the real action, which for England means Saturday’s Group C against the United States.
“We are ready - these are preparation games for us for the big one now coming up on Saturday,” Rooney said. “I just can’t wait now. The sooner it comes, the better.”
Team-mate Jermain Defoe stressed that Rooney would be a lesser player if he was to shed his intensely competitive edge.
“When you’ve got that fire in your belly as a player can be good,” Defoe said. “If you take that away from Wayne, then he won’t be the same player.”
Defoe backed Rooney’s view that England are ready to challenge at this World Cup, although he acknowledged they were still adjusting to the 1500m-plus altitude of South Africa’s high veldt.
“It was a really good work out. With the conditions, the altitude and the heat, it made it difficult, but it helped with the fitness for what is ahead.
“You do notice the altitude here when you’re running around. It’s different, and we’re a lot higher here than we were in Austria but I’m sure we’ll get used to it in training.
“I don’t think we could be better prepared for a World Cup. I think everything we’ve done - the training, the fitness work - has been spot on.
“The hotel is brilliant. We’ve got everything we need, so the preparation has been good and, if you prepare right, you get results.”
Defoe added: “Everyone’s hungry. We want to win it. We’ll take each game as it comes, but I think we’ve got that winning mentality.
“We’re winning games and we want to take that into a tournament now.”
Joe Cole, the only player to play 90 minutes against the Platinum Stars, Ashley Cole, Ledley King and Shaun Wright-Phillips were all missing as England trained at their Rustenburg base on Tuesday.
But team officials said they were doing gym work and were on track to be available for Saturday’s match.