Thursday 9 July 2015 17:00, UK
England boss Roy Hodgson says he thinks becoming captain has improved Wayne Rooney's performances at international level.
The 29-year-old Manchester United forward became skipper when Steven Gerrard retired following the World Cup last summer.
And Rooney has enjoyed a fine first season in the role, leading the way as England collected maximum points from their opening six Euro 2016 qualification encounters.
Hodgson told American radio station Sirius: "Wayne has been fantastic all the time I've been with the national team, but I would say he has stepped up a notch in terms of being an England player since he got the captaincy.
"He took that honour very seriously.
"He researched the role a little bit, took in his experience of playing under previous captains, and he works very closely with me and the players.
"But, most importantly of all, he plays well for the team.
"The good fortune for us is he has come up with goals - I am thinking of the Estonia game (a 1-0 win secured by a fine Rooney free-kick) when he wasn't having a wonder game - even when his actual performance hasn't been as good as he can be.
"I think we are lucky that the void we thought might exist after Steven Gerrard has been filled."
Such have been their displays in the qualifying group that expectations are building ahead of Euro 2016 and Hodgson says that is inevitable.
"It doesn't matter what our ranking is or if we have a young team,” he said. “We are expected to win, so there is no point trying to play down expectations.
"What I hope is the team I believe is capable of playing some very good football will be capable of producing those performances at a European Championships, which in the past has not always been the case.
"A major task for us will be to make sure we can produce when push comes to shove in a knock-out tournament."