MARTIN SAMUEL: Rooney’s record should read 119 caps + one for charity
Wayne Rooney’s recall is bad news for England… his record should now read 119 caps, plus one for charity
- FA lost control of situation after Wayne Rooney’s return for USA friendly leaked
- They wanted to announce brainwave with the opportunity to massage decision
- Recall runs counter to all Gareth Southgate has hoped to achieve as manager
- The charity could still benefit without Rooney taking field for an illegitimate cap
Present him with a commemorative gold England cap. Name the game in his honour. Give his charities the entire proceeds.
Let his kids be the mascots and put his favourite band on at half-time. Just don’t put Wayne Rooney in the England team on November 15.
It is too late for U-turns now, Rooney’s end have made sure of that. The plan was for the Football Association to announce its latest brainwave this week, when they could massage and promote a decision that is the opposite to all Gareth Southgate has hoped to achieve in his time as England manager.
Wayne Rooney’s return to play for England has already turned into another arm of showbiz
Now the news has leaked, they have lost control – even of their own fixture against the United States. It is the RooFest now, cigarette lighters at the ready.
It does not matter whether he plays for ten minutes or 90. They have turned an England international into another arm of showbiz.
The national team is a tribute act and the record books deserving of an asterisk. Rooney made 119 appearances for England – and one that was a charity job.
David Beckham was offered the same opportunity some years ago and turned it down. He said he would only play on merit. Good for him.
Other countries do it, is the FA’s argument – the same one they advanced for going without a national stadium.
So why can’t England be different? Why can’t this be the country where caps – all caps – have meaning? When nothing is given cheaply, or on name alone. Isn’t it time they got their own ideas?
The decision to bring Rooney back runs counter to everything Gareth Southgate is building
Not that this will come cheap, of course. The next time Southgate stresses the importance of non-competitive internationals to his players, their club bosses will have the perfect counter-claim.
What about the testimonial? What about the week of training that featured a player who had effectively retired from international football more than a year ago? It was Rooney’s decision to turn down Southgate’s consideration of a recall in August 2017.
That was the time when he could have won a legitimate 120th cap. Why accept one now? For charity? If it’s charity that’s at stake, give Rooney’s foundation the proceeds of the match with Spain in October. There were over 80,000 there that night.
Anyway, the charity could still benefit without Rooney on the pitch. His presence is all that would be required. There could have been a ceremony, a send-off.
The FA could have paid tribute, done right by their greatest goalscorer; they just didn’t have to further undermine the worth of international football in the process.
Rooney should be afforded a great send-off but does not need to play against the USA
And where is Southgate in this? One of his greatest successes is the overhaul of England, the projection of youth on a team that was looking tired and complacent. Southgate won in Spain with England’s youngest starting XI since 1959 – and his next match is this?
If you’re good enough, you’re old enough, is the saying, and the same applies to experience. If Rooney justified his recall on merit then, even at 33, he’s young enough, too.
But he made his decision. Finished with England, finished with the major leagues, too. It is a pity it all seemed to end so suddenly, because he was a great player, but that’s football.
Few get to choose their exit. The FA have changed that. They could have written a cheque, instead they have set a precedent that will be impossible to ignore. Certainly the next time Southgate attempts to emphasise the meaning of the international game.
The 33-year-old chose to retire on his own terms and the FA are setting a dangerous precedent
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