Southgate defends giving Rooney a final England appearance
The 33-year-old Rooney will feature for a 120th England appearance during next Thursday’s friendly against the United States at Wembley Stadium, despite retiring from international duty in August 2017.
“Those discussions started 12 months ago. We have an opportunity with the game at Wembley to pay tribute,” Southgate said. “We have brought former players back to speak and present shirts. I think all the players respect Wayne’s contribution and that he deserves the best possible send-off.”
Rooney was one of 28 players selected Thursday by Southgate but the former captain will not play on Nov. 18 against Croatia in England’s final UEFA Nations League game.
“I am still able to look to the future with the squad we’ve picked,” Southgate said.
After a career on home soil at Manchester United and Everton, Rooney is now in Major League Soccer with D.C. United. Southgate was inspired to give the striker a significant tribute after seeing how Germany honored Lukas Podolski around a 2017 game against England.
“We were all struck by the fact that it was a good way to recognize someone who’s had a fantastic career for his country,” Southgate said. “We’ve not been brilliant at that over the years.”
As Rooney bids farewell to England, Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson has been called up for the first time after scoring six goals this season in the Premier League.
Midfielders Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard return after being ruled out of last month’s Nations League games against Spain and Croatia through injury, with Mason Mount and James Maddison dropping out.
A draw with Croatia followed by a victory over Spain leaves England waiting on the result of the meeting between their League A Group Four rivals before Southgate knows what is at stake in his final Nations League game.
Relegation to League B or progression into the finals of the inaugural competition both remain possibilities for England, which lost to Croatia in its first World Cup semifinal in 28 years in July.