Steve McClaren believes a revitalised Wayne Rooney can provide the spark England need to avoid UEFA EURO 2008 embarrassment. The Manchester United forward has enjoyed an impressive pre-season after a much-needed rest, and England head coach McClaren sees signs that his young star is about to take his game to a new level.

It is vital for McClaren that Rooney is firing on all cylinders going into the crucial EURO 2008 qualifiers next month that will define his reign as England coach. "It is great to see Wayne coming back from his break this summer in top form," said the former Middlesbrough gaffer.

"I spoke to Sir Alex (Ferguson) quite early on and he told me how fit Wayne was. He certainly looks very fit from what I have seen. It is his first full pre-season for a while as well, so you are bound to benefit from that. Speaking to Wayne, I know he is dying to get back into the England squad and he is going to be a big player for us."

If England are to avoid a humilating failure to reach the finals they must win their home matches against Israel and Russia in September. McClaren knows he would almost certainly be sacked if England failed to reach the continental finals, but he insists the trauma of being jeered by their own fans during the qualifier against Andorra has brought England's players closer together.

McClaren hopes that experience has made England more determined to prove the critics wrong. "Sometimes you have to go through bad times," he continued. "They can bring you together and I just felt after that period in March there was a definite reaction, which was reflected in the performances and results of the last three games.

"In times like that, it is about believing in ourselves, believing in what we were doing and what we were trying to achieve. It is about sticking to the preparation that we know and making sure we get the results. You are going to get bad times and adversity.

"But going through it, you learn a lot, not just about yourself but the players around you. I firmly believe we go into the next year in a stronger position than we were a year ago.

"There is a great determination amongst the players and staff to make sure we create a successful England team that qualifies for EURO 2008. The fans deserve it."