Southgate said ‘no easy caps’, so why give Rooney an England recall?
Gareth Southgate said ‘no easy caps’, so why give Wayne Rooney a charity recall for England at Wembley?
- Wayne Rooney is set to represent England one last time against the USA
- The game will be held at Wembley and will be used to raise money for charity
- It will be a chance for Rooney to receive a final send-off from international duty
- It seems strange because Gareth Southgate was meant to be against ‘easy caps’
According to the statement released by the Football Association on Sunday, this is not just an England game against the USA later this month but ‘a Wayne Rooney Foundation International’.
The FA were quick to point out that such friendlies are often publicised in tandem with a chosen charity. They have had Kick It Out and Football Foundation internationals too, even if that has not then resulted in a five-minute cameo for Lord Ouseley.
But Wembley officials spent much of Sunday trying to explain themselves, privately admitting that the decision to recall Rooney to the squad two years after his last appearance — and 15 months after he announced his retirement from international football — was proving a divisive issue.
Wayen Rooney willl turn out for England against the USA in a fund-raising friendly this month
Revealed by the Sun on Sunday, the story of Rooney’s involvement caught the FA off-guard when they were rather hoping to manage the news on their own terms later this week.
Even then, though, it would have been a tough sell when it was only in August that Gareth Southgate said it had become ‘too easy to get into the England squad’, and therefore wanted to make it rather more difficult, particularly for younger players.
Now, however, that message is confused, and the decision to open the door to a 33-year-old playing in MLS and no longer interested in playing for England could undermine much of the good work Southgate has done. Not least in his focus on young talent and with it a step away from the Rooney generation.
Rooney is set to play one final game for England in what will be a send-off for the striker
England’s Twitter account confirmed the news by tweeting a picture of Rooney’s new shirt
As FA chief executive Martin Glenn joked when Southgate signed his new contract last month, the only foot he has put wrong since becoming manager was the one that sent him crashing to the ground while out running in Russia.
However in a single ill-conceived stroke Southgate has left himself open to accusations of devaluing the England cap, while inviting club managers to be less co-operative. Friendlies, they would now be well within their rights to point out, are indeed meaningless exercises.
What a pity. Southgate did such a fine job of condemning Rooney to the international wilderness when he was caught boozing at a wedding at the England team hotel. He never actually said it was a reason for omitting the then-captain, but the former Manchester United striker was never seen again.
The decision to omit Rooney from the next squad looked all the more astute when it turned out another drinking session — with a now prominent member of the current squad — concluded with him driving the car belonging to a young woman he had met that evening.
It is perhaps worth noting that the player being honoured on November 15 is still serving the two-year driving ban he received at Stockport Magistrates Court in September last year.
Gareth Southgate did a fine job of condeming Rooney to the international wilderness
WAYNE ROONEY’S ENGLAND CAREER
Major tournaments appearances: Six
Accolades: England’s all-time top goalscorer
People make mistakes, of course, and Rooney appeared genuinely remorseful. For that reason some kind of recognition of his achievements as an England player, as the country’s record goalscorer and most-capped outfield player with 119 appearances, is not inappropriate.
His foundation, which includes the NSPCC among the charities it supports, is also an extremely worthy cause.
But why not partner with the charity for this game and make Rooney the guest of honour? Why not introduce him to the Wembley crowd at half-time and make a special presentation to a player who, like so many great England footballers, never got a chance to say farewell?
In fairness to the FA, other countries have indulged their heroes with a final game. Germany did it last year for Lukas Podolski in a friendly with England, while Brazil gave Ronaldo 15 minutes in a game against Romania that came five years after his previous appearance for his country.
Rooney made his debut against Australia in a friendly at Upton Park on February 12, 2003
Credit to David Beckham for rejecting such an opportunity. When Fabio Capello invited him to have one last game for England he told the Italian he was not interested in being in his squad unless it was purely on merit.
Rooney is understandably thrilled. ‘I am truly humbled and hugely excited,’ he said in the FA statement, while Southgate said it was ‘fortunate that circumstances have allowed us to formally acknowledge Wayne’s immense contribution to England’.
Those circumstances include an important game against Croatia three days later. Unless, that is, the Nations League does not really matter either.
Rooney will not be involved in that game, and according to the FA will only come on for a few minutes at the end of the USA game. But next week he will train with a squad that is supposed to be tough to get into and he will be rewarded with a 120th cap.
For a footballer already recognised for a fine England career, it feels entirely unnecessary.
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