Wayne Rooney today dismissed fears he would be a red-card risk in England's crunch UEFA EURO 2012 clash against Ukraine. Tuesday's final Group D game in Donetsk was expected to see Rooney make his eagerly-anticipated return from suspension after sitting out his country's opening two games of the tournament.
Rooney was banned after being sent off for kicking Montenegro's Miodrag Dzudovic during England's final EURO 2012 qualifier in October. The Manchester United star has a chequered disciplinary record down the years and was red-carded at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™.
He also lost his temper with England fans during a poor 2010 tournament and, with a hostile atmosphere expected in Donetsk on Tuesday, some have suggested recalling him would be something of a gamble. However, Rooney has picked up just one yellow card for club and country since October's moment of madness and has only been booked twice all season.
Asked if he needed to channel his aggression in the right way on Tuesday, he said: "I think I have done all season. What happened [in Montenegro] was a mistake. I understood that and apologised to the guy. I've paid the price. I've had to take it. And I have no problems with my attitude or my temperament. I'm happy and I'm ready to play."
Rooney admitted he feared his suspension - which was originally three matches before a Football Association appeal reduced it to two - would cost him his place in England's EURO 2012 squad. "Of course," he said. "Certainly, when it was a three-game ban, I thought I probably wouldn't be here."
Tuesday's match is effectively an away game for England and, with their opponents needing to win to avoid an early exit, the heat will be on. "It'll be a big challenge," Rooney said. "They'll obviously have the majority of the support and the majority of the fans in the stadium.
"We've been in this situation before. We've been to a lot of stadiums around Europe and around the world, and we've had to deal with this atmosphere on a lot of occasions. If you look at Turkey away nine or ten years ago, it was as hostile as you're going to get. So we understand there's going to be a big atmosphere and it's something we have to deal with. We're big enough and experienced enough to deal with it."