Fans asked to spare Rooney
Southgate wants boos against captain to end
Gareth Southgate launched a passionate defence of his captain Wayne Rooney on Saturday night, after sections of the Wembley crowd booed his name when it was announced before England’s 2-0 defeat of Malta.
With the debate over Rooney’s position and role in the team still raging, Southgate started him alongside Jordan Henderson in midfield as England won through first-half goals from Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli.
Southgate, England’s stand-in boss following the departure of Sam Allardyce, was bewildered by the negativity. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “But that seems to be the landscape and I’ve no idea how it is expected to help him. People will look at the number of games and goalscoring feats for England. And I look back to John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole.”
“In their time with England they took enormous criticism but when you look at the number of caps they got, they were guys who kept turning out and who put themselves on the line, whereas some other players have not put themselves forward and withdrawn from squads when the going got tough.”
“But those guys are the guys who desperately wanted to play for England again and again and again and put their necks on the block — and Wayne falls into that category. I presented him with a cap in the week, being the record cap holder for his country (for outfield players). He ploughs on and plays with pride.”
And despite England looking laboured in the second half against the side ranked No 176 in the world, Southgate professed himself satisfied with Rooney’s performance as the England captain won his 117th cap, just eight behind all-time record holder, goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
“We knew that we would have a lot of the ball an dictate the tempo and his experience and leadership has been crucial throughout this week, not just today,” he said. “I wanted to get Deli Alli higher up the pitch and he got his goal and will be disappointed he didn’t get a second.”
But he refused to be drawn on Jose Mourinho’s comments that he wouldn’t play Rooney in that position for his club. “Jose has his opinion on what is right for his team and I have select a team that I think is right to get a result today,” said Southgate.
England interim manager Gareth Southgate with striker Marcus Rashford.