For all the criticism Wayne Rooney draws in an England shirt, few can deny that he has been his nation’s saviour in major tournament qualifying time and time again.
All the talk before the Three Lions’ meeting with San Marino this evening has been about when the Manchester United star will break the international goals record set by his predecessor in the hearts of the Old Trafford faithful, Sir Bobby Charlton.
Rooney is currently on 41 strikes, three behind Jimmy Greaves, seven behind Gary Lineker and eight behind the chrome-domed knight of Northumberland.
Lowly San Marino are 3/1 favourites to be the side against whom the 28-year-old spears the overall accolade and justifiably so.
That’s not for a minute to suggest that he’ll do so by rifling nine past the hapless butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers of the opposition this evening.
No, it’ll be the return fixture in the circa 32,000-population microstate’s grandiosely-titled Stadio Olimpico next September that sees Wazza usurp Sir Bobby.
Rooney’s scoring record in qualification for the last World Cup was a ‘nuff respect seven goals in six games.
There are six competitive fixtures between tonight’s meeting with La Serenissima and the sides’ next meeting (inclusive), along with two friendlies.
The Man Utd star’s record in just-for-fun affairs over this season and the last is a far more modest two strikes in eight outings.
However, the fact that the ever-generous de-facto Italians are twice on the menu during the sequence means his competitive average of just over a goal per game should abide over the run of eight fixtures.
Last time San Marino came to Wembley Rooney helped himself to a brace.
If he repeats the feat in both clashes with them this time around, he need only net once in the two friendlies against Scotland and Ireland to end Charlton’s reign against the uber minnows.