Jadon Sancho thanks Wayne Rooney for settling his Wembley nerves ahead of full England debut

simon johnson
Making an impression: Jadon Sancho makes his debut on Thursday: Action Images via Reuters

With just a few reassuring words to Jadon Sancho, Wayne Rooney more than justified his brief return to the England fold.

The night was always going to be a success for sentimental reasons. Families with excitable young children made up vast numbers of the 68,155 crowd, wanting to pay homage to England’s all-time leading scorer one last time.

Rooney played with a swagger and a smile during the 32 minutes he was on the pitch. On a couple of occasions, he even came close to adding the 54th goal of a remarkable international career. But the greatest positive to come out of Rooney being back in the camp was the galvanising effect on the individuals hoping to somehow emulate him.

Take 18-year-old Sancho, for example. There is a real buzz around this teenager at the moment, especially after what he has achieved at Borussia Dortmund so far this season.

But the manner in which he took on the USA in an England shirt, particularly in the first half, oozed self-belief.

Yet, inside the dressing room before kick-off, Sancho was feeling anything but ready to put on a show — until Rooney stepped in.

Sancho, who was making his full debut at Wembley, explained: “I told Wayne that I was nervous and he came over and told me to be confident, that I had nothing to lose.

“I have to thank him because, without that advice, I might have still been really nervous.”

Rooney is not the first ex-England player to be brought back into the camp in some fashion since coach Gareth Southgate took over.

The DC United star handed debutants Callum Wilson, Lewis Dunk and Alex McCarthy their jerseys last night. A year ago, Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek was given his by Ian Wright.

Loftus-Cheek said: “It’s a good thing that players from the past are involved in this way. I never thought I’d be on the same pitch as Rooney in an England shirt. He has been great around the boys.”