South­gate com­fort­able with tribute to Rooney

Western Daily Press - - Football - DE­CLAN WAR­RING­TON Foot­ball writer

GARETH South­gate de­fended the in­clu­sion of Wayne Rooney in the Eng­land squad for the forth­com­ing fix­tures with United States and Croa­tia, re­veal­ing he could even fea­ture as cap­tain in a tribute that has been dis­cussed for over a year.

Rooney re­tired from in­ter­na­tional duty in Au­gust 2017, af­ter 119 caps and a record 53 goals, and his Eng­land ca­reer is set to be hon­oured by a fi­nal, fur­ther cap against the USA at Wem­b­ley next Thurs­day with a sub­sti­tute ap­pear­ance.

The Eng­land man­ager re­mains adamant that the oc­ca­sion will not de­value the shirt and also de­scribed as “strange” the di­vi­sive de­bate that has sur­rounded Rooney’s in­volve­ment, which the for­ward felt would not be ap­pro­pri­ate in the friendly against Nige­ria on the eve of the World Cup.

“Those dis­cus­sions started over 12 months ago; I was quite happy for the tribute to be be­fore the World Cup, but Wayne didn’t want to de­tract from the team at that time, which ev­ery­one re­spected,” said South­gate. “That’s why it was put back. Now we have the op­por­tu­nity at Wem­b­ley to pay that tribute. I’m still able to look to the fu­ture with the squad we’ve picked, but also I’ve spo­ken a lot to the play­ers about the shirt, the his­tory of the short, hon­our­ing for­mer play­ers.

“The play­ers would re­spect that Wayne’s con­tri­bu­tion de­serves the best pos­si­ble send-off. I un­der­stand that’s caused a lot of de­bate, but it’s a small way of ap­pre­ci­at­ing what he’s given to his coun­try.

“We’re a strange coun­try in that we be­moan the fact that we haven’t achieved as much as we’d like, and then we have a player who should be held in the high­est re­gard and we’re spend­ing a lot of time jus­ti­fy­ing giv­ing him that tribute.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to work­ing with him and giv­ing him the send-off he de­serves, which isn’t al­ways pos­si­ble. We can as­sess, once ev­ery­thing’s fin­ished, whether that was the right thing to do and whether we’d do it again. Over a pe­riod I’ve tried to ap­proach things dif­fer­ently, and some of those de­ci­sions are a bit risky; some have paid off, some won’t. I’m com­pletely com­fort­able.”

The 33-year-old Rooney had also been Eng­land cap­tain, but in his re­tire­ment South­gate’s youth­ful team cre­ated a new iden­tity with Harry Kane as its new leader.

Dis­miss­ing sug­ges­tions Rooney would be handed his long-time num­ber-ten shirt, South­gate re­gard­less re­vealed he would have “no is­sue” if he again wore the cap­tain’s arm­band, and his be­lief that the na­tional team’s setup has too of­ten over­looked great for­mer play­ers.

“The last game he played, when he came on, Jor­dan Hen­der­son ran over and gave him the arm­band as soon as he ran on the pitch,” he said. “That would de­pend on the cir­cum­stances, but I’ve no is­sue with that at all.”

South­gate handed a first call-up to Bournemouth’s in-form striker Cal­lum Wil­son, and a re­call to Ever­ton de­fender Michael Keane.

Andrew Red­ing­ton/ Getty Im­ages

Eng­land man­agerGareth South­gate

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