Jack Wilshere calls Wayne Rooney a 'dad figure' for England

Jack Wilshere praised the paternal qualities of natural-born leader Wayne Rooney as the England captain closes in on a century of international appearances.

Wilshere recalls Rooney as a prodigious teenager, wreaking havoc on defences at Euro 2004, and now is honoured to be playing alongside the Manchester United forward, who is expected to earn his 99th cap in Sunday's Euro 2016 qualifying clash against Estonia in Tallinn.

"He's a natural leader," the 22-year-old Wilshere said. "He's the only one now who has been playing for England for 10 years.

"He's the dad figure if you like. He puts his arm around us, brings us together and gets us going."

The retirements of Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard saw the last of the so-called 'Golden Generation' leave England duty, but, under Rooney, who is 29 on Oct. 24, the current crop of talent are keen to assert themselves.

Wilshere added: "We're young, we're eager, we want to learn, and we want to win something with England.

"We want to get through this qualification and go to the Euros and really do something."

Earlier this year, Gerrard, Rooney's predecessor as captain, was sitting alongside Wilshere and tipped the Arsenal midfielder to be a future national team skipper.

Wilshere has, in many ways, taken Gerrard's place in the team, as a central playmaker.

England boss Roy Hodgson insists the accomplished Wilshere is not merely an additional defensive shield.

"I don't want to get pigeon-holed," Hodgson said. "I don't know that I want my holding player not to be box-to-box. I don't want someone just sitting in front of the back four, because that's not Jack Wilshere.

"There will be lots of times I want Jack Wilshere getting knock-downs coming out of the (opposition) box. If I want someone sitting in front of the back four, I'd probably re-school a player, take him out from centre-back.

"(But) I've never felt the need to develop a holding midfield player for England. I want midfield players."

Wilshere has been studying footage of Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso and Andrea Pirlo of Italy to learn more about the role he hopes to play for England for some time.

"The more I watch players like that, the quicker I'll learn," Wilshere added. "You learn how clever they are how intelligent they are on the ball. In that role it's important you have to understand that if you lose the ball the opposition are in a dangerous position to counter-attack. I enjoy playing that role. I enjoy getting on the ball and starting attacks."

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas, once Wilshere's captain at Arsenal, is another example to follow.

"He was great for me as a captain when I was 18, 19," Wilshere added. "He's got that pass which is so important for a midfield player."

Meanwhile, defender Kieran Gibbs says he is happy that he is finally healthy enough to play for England again.

Gibbs earned his first senior international call-up in August 2010 from Fabio Capello, but he would then spend three years out of the England senior picture until coming back into the fold under Hodgson.

"I have been frustrated in the past with injuries and stuff, but now I am feeling good and strong, so I am happy,'' Gibbs said.

"It is a great honour to be involved. I don't think the timing of the injuries helped me. They always seemed to be around the international break, but I am looking forward now and hopefully I can push on from here.''

Leighton Baines is likely to be put back into the starting XI for Sunday's tie in Estonia, while Manchester United's Luke Shaw is another option for Hodgson when fully fit.

Gibbs, though, will just focus on sustaining his own consistent performances.

"My time hasn't come, even still. I still have loads of work to do. I am just relishing the challenge and opportunity,'' he said. "In football it happens sometimes when you have a lot of quality in one position.

"You have to be on top of your game all the time to be in with a shout of the national team, so that is what I have to do for the rest of the season.''