South­gate de­fends Rooney ‘re­ward’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

LON­DON — Eng­land man­ager Gareth South­gate on Thurs­day de­fended his de­ci­sion to re­ward Wayne Rooney by field­ing the coun­try’s top in­ter­na­tional scorer in a friendly against Team USA at Wem­b­ley next week.

The Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion an­nounced ear­lier in the week that Rooney would be awarded his 120th cap as a trib­ute to his Eng­land ca­reer, which ap­peared to have come to an end when he re­tired from in­ter­na­tional soc­cer in Au­gust 2017.

The de­ci­sion has been crit­i­cized in the English me­dia, with a num­ber of ex­cit­ing young prospects need­ing more game time to be tested at the in­ter­na­tional level and the Team USA match seen as prepa­ra­tion for what could be a cru­cial Na­tions League de­cider against Croa­tia four days later.

“I am still able to look to the fu­ture in terms of the squad we have picked,” said South­gate.

“But also I have talked a lot to the play­ers about the im­por­tance of the shirt, the his­tory of the shirt, hon­or­ing the for­mer play­ers, and I be­lieve all of them re­spect that Wayne’s con­tri­bu­tion de­serves the best pos­si­ble send­off.

“I un­der­stand it has caused de­bate, but for me it is a small way of ap­pre­ci­at­ing what he has given to his coun­try.”

Rooney, 33, scored 53 goals in his pre­vi­ous 119 caps. How­ever, he failed to carry his coun­try to the level of suc­cess Eng­land en­joyed un­der South­gate at the World Cup this year by reach­ing the semi­fi­nals.

The for­mer Manch­ester United cap­tain has starred for DC United since mov­ing to Ma­jor League Soc­cer in June.

South­gate con­firmed Rooney wouldn’t start the match or wear the num­ber 10 shirt, but that he could be handed the cap­tain’s arm­band as a sub­sti­tute.

“He won’t wear num­ber 10 be­cause he won’t start the game,” said the man­ager.

“When he came on in his last game, Jor­dan Hen­der­son ran over and gave him the arm­band. I guess that it will de­pend on the cir­cum­stances of the game and the play­ers who are out there, but I have no is­sue with that.”

Mean­while, Bournemouth striker Cal­lum Wil­son was re­warded for his fine start to the cam­paign with a first Eng­land call-up among a bumper 28-man squad named on Thurs­day.

No English player has scored more than Wil­son’s six Pre­mier League goals so far this sea­son.

“He’s a threat in terms of run­ning in be­hind de­fenses. He’s been in­volved with ei­ther scor­ing or as­sists, with a high num­ber of goals this sea­son, so it’s a good op­por­tu­nity for us to have a look at him and see how he fits into what we do,” said South­gate.

Af­ter beat­ing Spain 3-2 in Seville last month, Eng­land could progress to the semi­fi­nals of the in­au­gu­ral Na­tions League with vic­tory over Croa­tia if Spain fails to win in Zagreb on Nov 15.

Wayne Rooney

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