Rooney dropped in 'a big moment' for his England career

The England captain and country's record goalscorer, saw himself getting dropped by his national team for the first time against Slovenia.

Published: 11th October 2016 07:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th October 2016 07:51 AM   |  A+A-


England football skipper Wayne Rooney. | AP

By The Daily Telegraph

From its Roman heritage to its more recent rail history, Ljubljana has been known as a crossroads. And it is here in the Slovenian capital that Wayne Rooney has reached a crossroads, with England's captain and record goalscorer, the man whom Gareth Southgate says spreads a bit of "gold dust" among his team-mates, being dropped by his country for the first time.

"I've played 13 years non-stop for England, given everything, and a time comes when you are not the first name on the team sheet, like I have been in the past," Rooney admitted, in what felt like a big -moment. "Of course it is," he -acknowledged. "I am not naive in terms of thinking that I can do what I could do when I was 20. I understand that." 

Sitting alongside Rooney, Southgate explained, rationally but compassionately, the reasons for his first significant decision as -interim manager. He recalled Sven-Goran Eriksson's parting remark as he stepped down as England manager after the 2006 World Cup. "I remember Sven talking about Wayne as a youngster and saying, 'Look after him, he's your future' and I'm not sure we've always done that," Southgate said, stressing he took no satisfaction in the decision to drop Rooney for Eric Dier. "I know the implications when you've got a big player, somebody who is a worldwide figurE. It has repercussions for him." 

An immediate repercussion was Rooney's extraordinary decision to face the media ahead of tonight's World Cup qualifier even though he had been left out. "It was important to get my opinion across -because, if I didn't, a lot of stuff could have been written or said without me having my opinion," Rooney explained. "We [he and Southgate] spoke about it and I felt it was the right thing to do because, with me, things do get blown out of proportion at times." 

Southgate had informed Rooney of his omission at the England team hotel, The Grove, near Watford, on Sunday. "We spoke at length," Southgate said. "Not only did he -accept the news with great professionalism, he was also very keen to speak before the match." 

Southgate was not certain that Rooney decision to appear at the press conference was the right one but it worked and showed perhaps a new maturity within the England set-up. A big decision was taken and explained.

It has nevertheless been clearly painful time for Rooney and for his family, with his wife, Coleen, -angrily taking to Twitter and telling people to "shut up". "We're not plastic, he's not plastic, we are people," she wrote, having woken up to headlines yesterday suggesting he was poised to be dropped, after some England fans had booed him during the 2-0 win against Malta on Saturday.

Coleen went on to say that "money does not enter my mind, or his or anyone close to us. It's feelings that matter". Rooney, clearly hurt, simply said: "She has her opinion, but that's not something I want to talk about."

The players were not informed of the decision - Rooney did not mention it in a team meeting on Sunday evening - until it became apparent at Tottenham Hotspur's Enfield training ground yesterday morning when the bibs were handed out. "The players saw it today when we worked on team shape," Rooney -explained. "The players will respect and understand the decision." 

Southgate said: "We talked things through. We knew it would break today, so all of these things were taken into account." 

Although there is sound logic to the decision and it has been -portrayed as one relating solely to this tie, it was obvious from the way both men spoke that it is far more significant than that.

Once informed, did Rooney consider accelerating his retirement from international football, which he has suggested would happen -after the 2018 World Cup?

"No, as I keep saying after the summer [and Euro 2016], it would have been easy for me to walk away and say 'that's it, I've had enough' but that's not me," Rooney said. "I feel I have a lot to offer. Listen, I'm not suddenly going to turn round and say, 'I'm not playing, I'm not going to turn up'. I know I can be a big help for the other players, whether I'm playing or not, both on and off the pitch.

"I will just keep working. I have said before that I will not stop playing for England and then, say, think of going to Dubai for a few days in the international break." 
His omission felt poignant nonetheless, much like the meeting Rooney held with the players from England's 1966 World Cup triumph at St George's Park last week.

"I met a few of the '66 lads and, of course, that is how you want to be remembered - successful and winning things, it hasn't happened since then but I always give everything for England," 
Rooney said. "Record goalscorer, I am proud of that. I have given everything and will carry on giving everything and try and help myself and my team-mates [to move] alongside those 66 lads." 

With 117 caps, Rooney is England's most capped outfield player and second most capped representative of all time. However, he professed himself not "too bothered" about beating Peter Shilton's landmark of 125 appearances. "I won't lose sleep over it. It is still attainable," he said.

Sixteen months ago, Rooney scored the winning goal in this stadium - the Stozice Sports Park - as England defeated Slovenia 3-2 in a Euro 2016 qualifier. That felt like a long time ago yesterday. 

There was one last question for Southgate, though. Had he thought about whether Rooney would play in the next game (the qualifier against Scotland)? Rooney interjected: "Do you mean United or England?" It was an insight into where he is right now.


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