ENGLAND captain Wayne Rooney inspired Newcastle United starlet Adam Armstrong to his own international heroics – after singling out the youngster for special praise.
Armstrong – who has been dubbed the next Rooney after modelling his game on the Manchester United star – was part of an England Under-18s squad which met with the Three Lions skipper last week.
Rooney was giving the youngsters a pep talk ahead of their double-header with Switzerland – and it paid dividends as Armstrong fired in the only goal in a hard-fought win on Thursday before firing a brace in a 6-1 victory on Saturday night in the second clash between the two sides.
For Armstrong, it was a dream come true to meet his idol, having shared the pitch with him when he made his first Premier League start for Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
And he was given even more of a buzz when Rooney picked him out of the crowd during his talk.
“I played against him at Old Trafford, and he said he liked the way that I always got across the defenders,” said Armstrong.
He gave me loads of tips and advice, which is an unbelievable experience for me.Adam Armstrong
“He said that the Manchester United team had watched me in the clips before the game – that was a massive confidence booster for me to have someone like that say that.”
Armstrong took his tally over the weekend to 19 goals in just 24 appearances for his country at youth level, and now wants to emulate Rooney, whose goal in the 4-0 Euro 16 Group D qualifier against Lithuania moved him to within three strikes of Bobby Charlton’s England record.
“He came into our meeting and answered questions from all the lads and then I managed to speak with him one-on-one,” added Armstrong.
“The lads were all getting photos with him and I just stayed behind after that, and the manager Neil Dewsnip asked if I could ask him a few questions about my game.
“I asked him what I can do for myself to improve as I try to play in the same way as him.
“He gave me loads of tips and advice, which is an unbelievable experience for me. Being such a young lad playing in the first-team, he told me that I always need to have confidence when I play and never be afraid to get my shots off.
“As a striker, he just said that I always need to have the belief to go again if it wasn’t happening for me and the only way to reach the top level is to continue working hard every day.
“It might sound daft, but I’ve still got his poster on my bedroom door at home, so it was just class.”
Armstrong has already emulated his hero in one way – skippering his country. The striker was handed the armband for the U18s on Saturday, and says he sees himself as a natural leader, while he has aso taken tips from Newcastle’s captain, Fabricio Coloccini.
He said: “It was a bit of a surprise to be made captain. With Lego (Everton midfielder Ryan Ledson) absent, there was a chance there and I put my name forward to Neil.
“He had asked in the meeting if anyone wanted to be captain, and I was straight up and let him know that I wanted it and I’m honoured he gave me it.
“You have a big responsibility captaining England.
“All the lads are looking up to you, but when you are on the pitch with this team it feels like there are 11 captains out there.
“I’ve captained Newcastle in the Youth Cup, but this was amazing. It’s a special feeling leading out your country.
“Do I feel like a leader? I would say so. With me being in Newcastle’s first-team, every day I’m gaining more and more experience.
“On matchdays I see how our captain Fabricio Coloccini speaks and acts around the dressing-room – that has helped me understand what I needed to do before the game.
“All my family are mad England fans, it’s always mental in the house whenever there’s a World Cup or the Euros are on.
“So for them to see me captain an England side is not just amazing for me, it’s amazing for them too.”