Rooney farewell match ‘my decision’ – Southgate
Gareth Southgate insisted that it was his decision to give Wayne Rooney one final England cap next week against the United States — but admitted that he has not spoken to the striker about his farewell appearance.
Rooney will earn his 120th cap as a second-half substitute at Wembley in a match dedicated to the player’s foundation, though the Football Association have confirmed that they will not be donating any of the gate receipts to the cause.
The FA’s controversial decision has prompted accusations that Rooney’s farewell call-up is a mere ruse to sell more tickets for the match, while others have suggested that the 33-year-old’s involvement could derail the momentum of Southgate’s squad ahead of a crucial UEFA Nations League game against Croatia. Southgate is adamant that this is not the case.
“I don’t know how the discussions worked but I know that internally I get consulted when there are football decisions to be made,” he said. “The football decisions are my decisions. There are players who have either been with us who I feel need to play to make sure they feel valued. Or there are young players we want to see from the start — that has to be the start point.
“And then we are able to acknowledge Wayne’s contribution after that. We’ve got to get the part of the game we need. But we are able to facilitate both. With England there are many objectives we are trying to achieve. You can’t achieve them all but we endeavour to achieve as many of them as we can. But there’s some players in positions I want to see and I’m excited about.”
Southgate said he last spoke to Rooney in April, when the DC United striker visited St George’s Park as an honorary ambassador for the UEFA Under-17 European Championship, but the two men did not discuss the tribute.
“We had a good discussion there but we haven’t directly discussed this, because there was no need for that,” Southgate said. “I don’t think [he thought he was going to start the game] but I’ve not spoken with him. There’s no particular agenda to me not speaking to him, let’s make that officially clear. I don’t think Wayne has been involved in all those discussions and I don’t need to be involved in all those discussions, frankly.
“I want to always be consulted on the football and if I’m happy from a football perspective — am I happy that I’m getting what I need from the game? Are we happy as a coaching team that we’re getting what we need from the game? Any opportunity for us to honour a player we will hugely respect.
“It was one we felt was important to take up. It’s important to recognise that if there’s a football decision the organisation comes to me and the start point is, ‘How would you feel about this?’ If I don’t think it’s something suitable then it doesn’t get any further.”
The FA are expecting an attendance of around 60,000 at Wembley for Rooney’s farewell and, without giving away too many details, Southgate revealed that he will make sure they get their money’s worth.
“I don’t want to give an exact minute because if I don’t get it right … there will be a bookmaker running a book on it,” Southgate joked.
“I think it should be appropriate that people are not heading for the tubes before he comes on, and also we have got out of the game what we wanted and not take someone off too early.”