Wayne Rooney is desperate to secure a perfect 10 from England's triumphant 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying campaign.
Fabio Capello's men travel to the Ukraine on Saturday with a place in South Africa already assured thanks to a record eight successive wins. But that is not enough for the steely-eyed Italian. With two matches left to play in Group Six, he is demanding another six points. And Rooney is determined to fulfil the request.
"The manager has stated he wants to win all 10 games and that is what we are aiming for," said Rooney. "He has made it clear to us these two matches are as important as all the other games we have played. They are the last competitive games we will play before the World Cup. After that there will be a friendly against Brazil and then another in March. So when you look at it, while it is a long time until the World Cup, there are not too many matches. It is important we take them seriously."
We have played some really good football, especially in the qualifying games. The friendlies have not been as good but when we have needed to we have played quite well.
Certainly Rooney is very much on message and judging by the rest of Capello's squad, it is a feeling that has permeated right through the England camp. If they had cared to flick onto the rolling sports news service on offer at their impressive Hertfordshire base yesterday, they would have learned of an increasing number of withdrawals from Scotland's squad to face Japan.
It is hardly unknown for club managers to apply a little pressure in such situations, especially when there is nothing at stake, as is presently the case with both England and Scotland. Yet, while George Burley had to combat 10 absentees, including his captain Darren Fletcher, Capello had just two; Joleon Lescott and Paul Robinson. The thought never crossed Rooney's mind, despite the impending arrival of his first child. "No. I don't think players want to withdraw," he said. "We are enjoying our football and playing well. Everyone wants to be a part of it, so there is no reason to pull out."
Rooney is not anticipating any dramatic developments with wife Coleen, whose pregnancy is more likely to affect Manchester United's visit to Moscow in a fortnight. More central to his thinking at present is the pleasure being derived from being part of this England squad.
"There is something different about this England," claimed Rooney. "We have played some really good football, especially in the qualifying games. The friendlies have not been as good but when we have needed to we have played quite well."
Time and again over the past few months, Capello has found himself searching for a piece of wood to touch after being asked what he hopes for most as reckoning day draws near. Injuries and freshness are the words to accompany the good luck. And on the Orwellian basis of all being equal but some more equal than others, Rooney is part of the select group, also containing John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who need to be ready for battle.
The manager has stated he wants to win all 10 games and that is what we are aiming for.
Certainly Rooney's contribution cannot be understated. So long in the shadow of former United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, the 23-year-old has emerged like a blossoming flower during this qualifying series, topping the European scoring charts with nine. "It is a great honour to score for your country," he said. "To be the leading goalscorer across the whole of Europe is something I would be very proud of."
It is all a far cry from Germany 2006, which ended with that stamp on Ricardo Carvalho - and that wink from Ronaldo, a reaction to a loss of self control, which Rooney puts down to the impetuosity of youth. "I am a more mature player now, which is natural," he said. "I broke into the England team at 17. Anyone doing that at such an age is going to be passionate.
"Your emotions are going to be really high. It does change as you get older. I am still young now - and I am still learning," he went on. "But those disappointments don't play on my mind at all. I have more or less forgotten about those tournaments now. I can't change them, so I don't look back. I am just trying to focus on the next tournament and to do well there."