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Rooney must accept booing, says James

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David James on role models in sport
  • Former England goalkeeper David James has sympathy for Wayne Rooney
  • But he says Manchester United striker needs to accept any criticism from fans
  • The 40-year-old says England underestimated opponents at the 2010 World Cup
  • But he backs coach Fabio Capello, for whom he says "winning is everything"

London, England (CNN) -- Wayne Rooney must be prepared for criticism from fans when he returns from injury for Manchester United, his former England teammate David James told CNN.

The striker has not played for the club since his controversial statement last month that he wanted to leave, which was followed by a quick change of mind and a subsequent lucrative new five-year contract.

Rooney went to the United States for conditioning treatment on his injured ankle, but is now being assessed ahead of a possible comeback in Saturday's Premier League match against Wigan.

The 25-year-old's apparent rift with manager Alex Ferguson split United fans, some of whom accused him of engineering the situation to get a better pay deal, and James said Rooney needs to accept that he will remain firmly in the media spotlight.

If you're going to put yourself in the spotlight for accolade, then you've got to accept the reverse consequences
--David James

"You have to accept that if you're going to put yourself out there, then you're going to have some good press and bad press," the 40-year-old James told CNN.

"The reality is that if you're going to accept people cheering you out of hand, for something you don't think needs cheering, then you've got to accept people booing you.

"If you're going to put yourself in the spotlight for accolade, then you've got to accept the reverse consequences."

James has sympathy for Rooney, who became a Premier League player with Everton at the age of just 16 and has had to deal with intense media pressure -- this year he was accused by newspapers of sleeping with a prostitute while his wife Coleen was pregnant.

"It is difficult, the likes of Wayne Rooney - he was a kid when he was in the first team and not much older than a kid when he was playing for England, so I think the reality is very subjective," James said.

"And when you haven't experienced normality through a career, it's very difficult to work out how to pitch yourself. A bit of advice is don't believe the hype.

"You're there to do a job, and as long as you're doing your job -- it's not easy but don't get carried away with it. I think when I was younger I was fortunate to be involved in a modeling campaign once, and at that moment in my life I thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. I think somewhere near the end of the season it all went wrong."

The goalkeeper, who now plays in England's second division with Bristol City, rates Rooney as the toughest striker he has faced.

"I'm going to go for Wazza, only because he chipped me and then laughed about it. I still love him, I think he's great," James said.

World Cup shortcomings

The former Liverpool, Manchester City, West Ham and Portsmouth keeper became the oldest World Cup debutant in June's 0-0 draw with Algeria, when he admits England failed to take their opposition seriously.

"I think, generally, the level of football was underestimated to the extent that you're playing teams like Algeria, and when the group was announced you're kind of like, 'Well they're the easy team, everybody's going to beat Algeria, maybe the only issue is with America.'

"And as result after result came through, the only staggering result was Portugal against North Korea [Portugal won 7-0]. Other than that, most games were tight -- really, really tight.

"It was almost as if teams had gone in to the World Cup to not lose matches, and then we suffered because teams were capable of nullifying what we had as an attacking option."

England coach Fabio Capello was vilified by the UK media following the 4-1 second-round crushing by Germany, but James backed the Italian.

"He's pedantic, without a doubt. The one thing I liked about it was I came into a squad, and he told me what he wanted to do. He instructed the players," James said.

"Even in training, if he saw something he didn't like, he'd stop. He's full-on 100 percent, everything is about winning and that's it. I can deal with that, I can deal with that sort of environment. I didn't need him coming up to me asking me how I was, I like him."

Role models in sport

While James has set up a foundation to carry out charity work in the African country of Malawi, he does not believe that footballers have to be role models.

"I don't think as a footballer you have to be out there doing charity work. I'm not doing it because I'm defending the football industry, I'm doing it because it's the way that I am -- and it gives me the opportunity to go a little bit further because of football perhaps," he said.

"I think I've been out three times, and my expertise is not farming. I appreciate that I'm going out there and having a few photos taken, but that's not what we're about, not what I'm about.

"The idea of doing something on an agricultural level, excuse the pun, but it was a small seed at the beginning. The idea isn't so much that there's a particular food source that we're trying to grow, it's just that there's a template of education and knowledge which, given the right sort of teaching, then people can implement that in the areas that need to do that."