Manchester Uniteds Wayne Rooney has been left out of a competitive international for the first time but he intends to fight on
Wayne Rooney has insisted he will not contemplate retiring from international football despite being dropped from a competitive England fixture for the first time in his career and a tacit admission from the Manchester United player that he was experiencing the most difficult period of his professional life.
Rooneys removal from Gareth Southgates team to play Slovenia means Englands record scorer has now lost his place for both club and country after being relegated to the substitutes bench in Uniteds past three games.
Jordan Henderson will take over the captaincy for Englands latest World Cup qualifier but Rooney maintains that he can still overtake Peter Shiltons record of 125 caps and did at least manage some gallows humour to a question about whether he might return in the next match. Do you mean United or England? Rooney asked.
Rooney had asked to appear at Englands press conference in Ljubljana so he could react in person to Southgates decision and make it clear, two weeks before his 31st birthday, that he had reluctantly accepted the decision. His official status as captain will not change but the downturn in his career can also be measured by his wife Coleens emotional response on Twitter and Southgate voicing strong objections about the culture in football of people taking malicious pleasure.
It is something which I have to go through, Rooney said. I am big enough to deal with it. I believe I can come back from this. I am 30 years of age. I am not 35 or 36 where you are thinking: Can you get back from it? I will keep working and I have said before that I will not stop playing for England and start going to Dubai for a few days in the international break.
After the summer it would have been easy for me to walk away and say: Thats it, Ive had enough, but thats not me. I feel I have a lot to offer and Ive made that clear [to Southgate], certainly until the World Cup in Russia. Thats what I want. Im not suddenly going to turn round and say: Im not playing, Im not going to turn up. I will turn up when called upon and be ready.
Ryan Giggs at 30 wasnt the same player he was at 18 and he played until he was 40. Theres lots of examples out there you can use players re-evaluate and work out the best way to move forwards. Im sure that will happen with me. I am not naive in terms of thinking that I am still a 20-year-old. I understand that. My game is different to that of a 20-year-old, but I also think I have qualities that can help move this team forward. Im not denying its a difficult moment but I have to show the right attitude, try to be positive and make sure I am supportive of my team-mates.
Southgate has decided to use Eric Dier alongside Henderson in the holding-midfield positions, citing their defensive responsibilities, their experience of playing in that role and their athleticism when he was asked why they been chosen ahead of Rooney. Englands caretaker manager described it as a very straightforward decision, adding that Dier was Englands best player at Euro 2016.
Its not something I take any pleasure from at all, but you put emotion and feeling to one side and make a decision that you think is right for tactical reasons, he said. It was not an easy decision to take because of the respect I have for him as a player and person. On a human level its a very difficult decision because I dont like the idea that there might be an element of satisfaction for some people. Im probably more annoyed by that than he is. Hes had to live with that sort of reaction throughout his career.
The gravity of Rooneys position can probably be gauged by the upset it has clearly caused his wife she has her opinion, Rooney said but he also indicated he was not entirely surprised by Southgates decision and accepted that a lot of football people, most notably Alan Shearer, had already stated he should have given up international football.
I personally dont know these people. They are entitled to their opinions. If it was Gareth or my manager at club level or friends or team-mates, that would be hurtful. People can say what they want. Ive had it throughout my career and it doesnt concern me. Thats what Alan believes. He stopped playing for England at 30 and thats his opinion. He doesnt know me as a person or as a player. He doesnt see me day-in, day-out enough really to have those opinions. I respect him of course, as an explayer and Ill move on.
There are many players in the Premier League who can only dream of being part of an England squad. Ive done it 117 times, but of course a time comes where there might be a bit of a change. I understand this is part of football.
Ive played 13 years non-stop for England, given everything, and a time comes when youre not the first name on the team-sheet, like I have been in the past.