Rooney dedication impresses boss
England's World Cup adventure could not have got off to a better start in the eyes of Roy Hodgson, especially given the way Wayne Rooney has hit the ground running.
It is just three weeks until the Three Lions get their tournament under way against Group D favourites Italy in Manaus, deep in the heart of the Amazon.
England are spending time in the Algarve and Miami in preparation for the expected hot and humid conditions, although their training camp in Portugal has not exactly gone to plan so far weather-wise.
The squad arrived in Vale do Lobo on Monday and, after torrential rain on their second day, were greeted by blustery conditions for their first and only open training session in front of more than 100 journalists and cameramen on Wednesday.
Not that Hodgson believes that has hampered preparations.
"It feels like the start of a big adventure," he said. "This is an excellent place to have a training camp.
"The first three days have gone as well as I could have possibly hoped for. There's a long way to go and a lot more days to get through, but we're off to a good start.
"It's been a very good three days. If we have the next two days in the same vein as these last three I shall be very happy.
"I'm finding it tremendous. I've really enjoyed being with them these two or three days. I'm impressed by the way they've approached this task and are going about their business. They've impressed me so many times in the past."
One of those to have caught Hodgson's eye is Rooney, whose dedication to the cause was highlighted last week.
Having missed the last three matches of Manchester United's woeful season, the 28-year-old took two fitness coaches on his pre-tournament holiday to Portugal in a bid to get back to full fitness.
That dedication has made an impression on Hodgson - "he is looking very good, very good indeed," he said - and makes the England boss believe Rooney can finally enjoy a big World Cup.
Should that not be the case then Hodgson insists it will not be "for the want of trying or want of dedication".
He said: "He realises what a good player he is and he knows we, as a football nation, place a lot of faith in him.
"He knows the eyes of England, if not the rest of the world, are on him. He will do everything he can, I'm sure, to make sure he brings out his best qualities.
"As you know, the players had a week off and he spent his week off here in Portugal and trained in that time.
"He made certain he got over that injury and he said to me, 'When you arrive on Monday and I meet you there, I want to be 100 percent ready to train from the first day'. And that's exactly how it was."
Hodgson is still treading carefully with Rooney, though, and disappointed the forward by keeping him out of a shooting drill on Wednesday as a precaution after being involved in the rest of the session.
United team-mate Phil Jones was again restricted to a light session with physio Steve Kemp as he continues his return from a shoulder injury, training with his standby John Stones after the Everton defender tweaked his knee on Tuesday.
"It was nice to see Phil Jones in the warm-up. He is going very, very well, it looks like he might be taking some part before the end of the week in some sort of football activities," Hodgson said. "Apart from those two, everyone is fit and well.
"At the moment, things are looking good for Peru (whom England face in a friendly at Wembley on May 30). In training sessions, things are always going to happen - a knock or a slight kick - but so far so good. We have come through it totally unscathed apart from John Stones. He will train tomorrow."
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