Response to Rooney’s return proves people do care about internationals

Southgate talked of it being too easy to get in the England team – and now this… the response to Rooney’s return proves people do care about international football

  • The Football Association have devalued an international fixture with ceremony 
  • Wayne Rooney will return, two years after retiring, for the USA friendly 
  • The FA have been left surprised by the negative reaction to the move
  • The response to bringing Rooney back proves people do care about England

International friendlies are absolutely pointless, we all know this. I don’t even like Wayne Rooney but I don’t begrudge him having a farewell game in a pointless friendly match. Redman, London.

Of course not, if you don’t understand international football, you will not care when it is undermined. Non-competitive internationals are far from pointless. I don’t like covering them, I don’t like any form of friendly football, but I get why they are necessary, and their usefulness to a manager. International coaches aren’t blessed with time spent on the training field, yet they need to experiment, to try new ideas and players the way club managers do. Friendlies are one way to achieve this. Words like pointless are thrown around unthinkingly but, for instance, the defensive formation that took England to a World Cup semi-final came out of a friendly this summer. Kyle Walker was deployed on the right of a back three for the first time away in Amsterdam, against Holland. Gary Neville came out of the Umbro Cup tournament in 1995, which was widely decried as pointless at the time, and he was England’s right back for over a decade. Most players make their international breakthrough in friendly games. They are invaluable which is why they should not be treated lightly. Anyway, as you can probably guess, we are debating Rooney’s return for England this week. You can read my initial take on it here. But first, a brief song about current Football Association policy.

I had been impressed that Gareth Southgate wasn’t giving out caps but building his own team. This is a ridiculous decision and I’ll not be buying a ticket or watching this farce. Sheddite, London.

Yes, I think that is what has surprised people most of all, that Southgate has bought into the idea. He talked of it being too easy to get into the England team at times, and now this.

In the grand scheme of things does it really matter that much? It’s a friendly, little more than a kickabout where there will be so many substitutions half the players that start won’t finish. Mr Deplorable, Bournemouth.

Yes, that is the nature of friendlies. The manager looks at new players, or gives younger ones more experience, or tries different combinations. And everyone has to buy into the importance of that, otherwise club managers will prioritise their own needs and won’t release their players. By devaluing this international with ceremony, the FA have set a precedent which makes that easier to happen in future.

England caps are worthless now – players can get one just for being on the field for two minutes. It’s not like when Bobby Moore or Bobby Charlton played – they always stayed on for 90 minutes. Jonjo, Wolverhampton.

Yes, but that was largely due to the rules around substitutions at the time. Equally, it could be argued that in Moore and Charlton’s time, a lot of their matches were home internationals against Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Moore, for instance, started every one of his 108 appearances. But how many were competitive games? Just 36. Much is made of Beckham’s substitute appearances at the end of his career, but take them away, plus all friendlies, and just compare competitive starts and he outstrips Moore by over 20 caps. Equally, just 14 of Charlton’s 49 England goals were competitive, as opposed to 37 of Rooney’s. This is not to decry any of these great players, but holes can be picked in even the greatest records.

I can’t believe people are getting so upset about this. Just let him do it, he was England’s highest goalscorer and always put in a shift. Not sure he deserves this backlash over one game we will forget In five minutes anyway. Wooker1, Berlin.

That’s the thing. People talk about international football as meaningless, but the response to events like this show they really do care.

Awful idea, truly awful and comes at a time when people were becoming increasingly interested in, invigorated by, reconnected with and supportive of the national team. How to undo a summer’s worth of great work in one foul farcical swoop. Also, as mentioned, probably the most negative aspect is that it seriously undermines Southgate. Ironman, Prague.

Only if it has been forced on him, Ironman, and everyone involved will close ranks and say it has not. I don’t think the FA expected it to be such a divisive issue, to be frank, probably because it is a very careerist organisation these days and they will only have seen it in terms of the PR opportunity. By all accounts, the negative reaction in many quarters has left them very surprised.

This is just crazy stuff. A lot of Rooney’s goals were penalties. Towards the end of his career he just disappeared from matches and didn’t contribute anything . He was never the world beater that some thought he was just because he played for Manchester United. Peter, Birchington on Sea.

Peter, his form for England is not the point. Even had he performed magnificently from first to last, England should not award ceremonial caps. There is a famous story about Geoff Hurst, hat-trick hero of the World Cup final, saying goodbye to his manager, Sir Alf Ramsey, after one England international. ‘See you next time, boss,’ said Hurst. ‘If selected, Geoff,’ replied Ramsey, ‘if selected…’

Wayne Rooney last pulled on an England shirt in a victory over Scotland two years ago

Wayne Rooney last pulled on an England shirt in a victory over Scotland two years ago

The number of times Rooney took the place of players who were in form and held England back was a joke. He shone against nobodys. Denislawbackheel, Manchester.

Again irrelevant. This is not about whether Rooney was a good player or not; it is about the cheapening of international football.

I’m one of Rooney’s biggest critics but, to be fair, he’s been smashing it in Major League Soccer and is probably in better form than the likes of Danny Welbeck. Why shouldn’t he get a call up just for that? Matthew II, Chelmsford.

He should, if that is what the manager thinks. The fact that Rooney is not going to be considered for the competitive match against Croatia that follows, however, suggests he does not.

Wrong, Martin, on so many counts. Rooney is not only England’s all time leading goalscorer – and likely to remain so for ever – he carried the national team for quite a spell, just as he did Manchester United where he was played into the ground by Sir Alex Ferguson. If he had been born inside the M25 and spent his career with a London club this gesture would be welcomed. If any player deserves to be given a chance to bow out at Wembley, it’s Rooney. Tub Thumper, Bradford.

Utter twaddle. For a start, let’s take the idea that 53 goals will stay the benchmark. Harry Kane already has 19 in 34 games. Say Kane gets to 102 appearances, at that rate he scores 57 times. So he gets a farewell game, too? There are five players that have reached 100 games in the last decade. A farewell game for them all, then. And what if England actually win something? Surely everyone deserves a farewell game in those circumstances. Plus the manager, of course. Also, while Rooney was an outstanding player, I do not believe he carried either England or Manchester United at any stage in his career. His first tournament, the 2004 European Championships, was his best – but when you look at the personnel from that time there were some excellent performers around him, too. As for United, he was a contemporary of many wonderful players, not least Cristiano Ronaldo. The idea that there is some sort of southern bias against Rooney, however, is your most laughable assertion of all.

Watched the Bobby Moore movie last night. The blue blazer brigade were a disgrace the way they treated him in retirement yet they treat Rooney like a god. Eddicaine, Southend on Sea.

Maybe this is an example of the FA learning from their mistakes and honouring great players who did great things for their country. RicM, Manchester.

Except nobody thought Moore should be given another game. They were appalled at how shabbily he was treated in terms of being received at Wembley and by the FA. And there is nothing wrong with honouring Rooney. There would be plenty of ways of doing that without putting him in the team.

As a Wales fan looking in from the outside, I cannot believe that the decision to honour the record cap holder and record scorer in a friendly is being criticised. To win 119 caps is an incredible achievement.I hope the Welsh media and Welsh fans would treat a similar decision to honour a Welsh player in a better way than this has been received. Aprince, Bristol.

I’m all for honouring great Welshmen. Let’s start with Meic Stevens. If there was ever a catchier British pop song I haven’t heard it.

The Daily Mail was defending Germany’s decision to give Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Poldolski a run out in one last game after they had retired, what’s the difference here? Brett1123, United Kingdom.

Great point raised mate. I wonder what they have to say about that. Salvation, Swaziland.

I’d have to say you have very poor powers of reasoning if you think that is a great point. Not every Daily Mail writer is in accord on every subject. It is quite possible you read one of my colleagues supporting international testimonials, you would never have read that line from me.

Nothing else in the world to worry about, Martin? Whyme68, Salford.

Plenty. But as this got the biggest response of anything I wrote this week, I’d argue I’m not so divorced from reality.

Look at David Beckham under Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello: 11 caps coming on at the end for less that 15 minutes. All because he needed one more than the great Bobby Moore. Ainsley, London.

More nonsense. Beckham won seven caps more than Moore, not one, and it was hardly his fault that Capello – not Eriksson, who stopped being England manager more than three years before Beckham played his final game against Belarus on October 14, 2009 – saw him only as a squad player by the end. Beckham, to his credit, kept turning up, even if Capello used him mainly to shore up games late in the second half. If Beckham had wanted easy caps, he could have accepted the one Capello was willing to give him as a farewell. He turned it down, saying he only wanted to play for England if he was picked on merit. In total, 101 of Beckham’s 115 caps were starts. So not bad.

As soon as Rooney left the international set up England have their best run since they won it. Not sure if his time in the team or the underperforming era he was part of is worth celebrating or worth disrupting the current setup. He had a chance to come back and turned it down. England marched on for the better. Now Wayne should march on, too. Mattmunz, Liverpool.

Look, I’m not saying England have got better because Rooney is no longer there, but they have certainly survived without him. Sport is traditional, but that should not be confused with sentimental. It has to be a meritocracy and that is what has been ignored here.

Fraizer Campbell, Jay Rodriguez, Michael Ricketts and Seth Johnson are all examples of why it doesn’t matter whether Rooney plays or not. They should never have been near the England team but have somehow got a cap. Get over it. It’s a pointless friendly. Why do people always moan? The Spanish, Germans and French embrace their heroes; we just slaughter them. Mibalsarakin, Spain.

No we don’t. We play them 119 times, we make them captain, we laud them, we cheer them. What we don’t do is play them a 120th time, as a testimionial. The players you mentioned were overpromoted. It happens. An England manager can be forced to give caps that would not be awarded if everyone was fit or available. When those players got games, however, the manager of the time genuinely thought they were the best available option. Is that true of Rooney now? No, or he would be involved against Croatia, too.

Watch the players drop out. What a waste of time. HonestTaxPayer, Wales.

And if anyone does, how is Southgate meant to impress on that player the importance of this fixture?

Rooney walked off the pitch that night in 2016 having made his 119th England appearance

Rooney walked off the pitch that night in 2016 having made his 119th England appearance

Rooney is England’s record goal scorer, Manchester United’s record goal scorer and has 119 England caps. Now he’ll get ten minutes for charity. What about all those caps given away to Welbeck and Jesse Lingard? Mattb08, Uxbridge.

Well, Lingard has been in outstanding form for England and, whatever Welbeck’s limitations, he always puts in a shift. You’ve picked on two of the most honest players England have had over the last decade.

Rooney is excelling again because he got away from the poisoning one – Jose Mourinho. I don’t believe it is because he is playing in a weaker league in the United States. He is class and very underrated. England could have done with him against Croatia in the World Cup. Deviousdel, Dublin.

He was away from Mourinho for a year before he left English football. Everton were his last club and they didn’t want him. MLS is an inferior league and, while his form there has been outstanding, it is also relative to the opposition.

He’s our greatest goalscorer and senior writers in the media won’t even let him have a charity game without having a pop. This is why the England teams of the past 15 years have struggled. Give the man the credit he richly deserves. IvanCamposWig, Bolton.

He got it: 119 caps. That was what he deserved; no more, no less. And one of the reasons England have struggled in recent years is our over-reliance on talismanic figures who under perform at tournaments. Beckham did not merit his place at the 2004 European Championships, but Eriksson was too in thrall to drop him, while Rooney disappointed in the major competitions, too.

Rooney’s England goals record was commemorated in its moment. I’m sure Bastian Schweinsteiger is satisfied with his international career, but does Rooney feel the same, having not won a tournament? Gary Neville wrote he sometimes considered his international career a waste of time. What are we commemorating here? What might have been in 2004? I’m reminded of Larry David’s award acceptance speech: ‘This is all very well and good, but I’m still bald.’ Nick Hemsley, Busan.

Always room for bit of Larry David in The Debate, Nick.

All the problems in football, and there’s plenty to go hard at the FA about, and Martin picks this. It won’t win or lose us a World Cup and hasn’t stopped Germany winning tons. No-one is forced to go and watch, it raise a few quid for charity and celebrates a great player. Nothing to see here. Kilofarahs, Manchester.

Yes, put like that it is irrelevant. However, placed in the context of making international football appear less meaningful and unimportant at a time when it needs all the help it can get, it is very relevant indeed. Consider the wider context and you might get there. And you’re obviously not paying attention if you think I haven’t covered all the other issues currently affecting the FA and the English game.

If this is an unselfish, altruistic act by Rooney, then he could easily donate a few weeks wages, or could arrange a separate charity match. Why does it need to involve the England team? Beckham used his good work for charity to also drive his personal ambition for a knighthood and Rooney is doing something similar, he wants a big send off. Dress it up any way you like, its another ego trio. Mjbirch, Letchworth.

What I do not understand is why Rooney’s charity could not have benefitted without him playing. That seems the opposite of good work being its own reward. I am sure Rooney gives plenty to charity on a personal level and I’ve seen him on hospital wards and in hospices first-hand. He’s magnificent. So his foundation is an excellent cause and I am glad it will do well from this. But it could have done just as well had the proceeds from this, or any other England game, been donated in his honour.

So how much would your nose be put out of joint getting dropped from the team or squad for a Rooney PR stunt? And what impact does that have on the harmony of the squad and Southgate’s authority? Russ H, Wrexham.

Certainly the word is that the dressing-room is as divided as the public. Some relaxed, others not so. That must have come as a surprise to the FA as well.

Winning England caps on merit? Come on, Martin, over the last 18 years England squads have been full of players with less than five caps because of who they played for or because they had six decent club games. Rooney isn’t going to start and I would say his MLS form deserves at least a 20 minute farewell. I wonder how many of the squad are picked on merit? Redbluewhite, Peterborough.

All of them, bar one.

Rooney has been standing out in the MLS with DC United since leaving the Premier League

Rooney has been standing out in the MLS with DC United since leaving the Premier League

Don’t see what the fuss is about. He can’t make them any worse. J18ydn, Newport.

What, worse than the team that reached the World Cup semi-finals and beat Spain away?

Picking foreigners with no connection to England is OK but picking a legend for one more game is a disgrace? Get a grip, all you journalists do not live in the real world. BobW, United Kingdom.

When have I ever supported picking foreign players for England? It’s one of my recurring themes, the devaluation of national sport. And in the real world, as you so presumptuously call your little orbit, there are plenty who think just like me.

What a load of bull. I for one won’t mind watching Rooney play again. Lobtaylor, Miami.

So watch MLS and leave England’s national team out of your celebrity obsessions.

Anyone opposed to this should take a hard look at themselves. The man has been one of England’s greatest players, is raising money for charity and it is only a friendly. In fact here’s an idea, make all friendlies charity fundraisers. Might be worth watching then. Musket Man, Bristol.

And how do you feel now you know not one penny of the gate money is going to charity? The significant donation, £3m in gate receipts, will stay with the FA as always. But there will be buckets, and frequent messages about how to donate online, meaning the money will be further milked from those who have already bought tickets. As I said, any match can be a Wayne Rooney foundation match if the FA donate the proceeds. The branding around this gives a false impression of largesse. It is your round, still, not the FA’s. They are playing Big-hearted Charlie with everyone else’s money.

Take a stand and don’t cover the game out of principle then Martin. Imre Banana, United Kingdom.

Imre, I think it’s rather pompous to say you won’t cover a sport or an event on principle. I’ve known journalists make principled stands against boxing, football, the Olympics – and amazingly they’re all still going. I was in two minds about covering the United States friendly anyway, and remain so now. But that’s not about principle, it’s about time management on a day when I also have a column to write.

Interesting that people claim it’s just a charity match so it’s OK. You can bet the same people won’t be saying that should their favourite club’s players get injured. Then it will be a meaningless, unnecessary game just put on to pay tribute to Rooney. Outspokenpleb, Barnsley.

No, I’m sure they’ll be philosophical. You know, like fans always are.

The point is he doesn’t merit playing for England. It shouldn’t be a case of selling the shirt to the highest bidder. This is the national team not some pub XI that can bring in anyone for a laugh. How on earth can anyone be OK with this? BaggsyB, Luxembourg.

If you respect international football, I don’t see how you can be, Baggsy. There were a hundred ways of donating or paying deserved tribute to Wayne without cheapening caps like this.

What’s your issue with it? He’s the top scorer for England. Germany have done it before. Leave it out. AlMeister93, Manchester.

Ah yes, slavishly following what the Germans do. Didn’t we put that to the vote once? Until next time. I’ll leave you with some Germans worth following: twice.




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