Wayne Rooney says he respects manager Gareth Southgate’s decision and is “ready to come off the bench if needed” after it was confirmed he has been dropped for England’s World Cup qualifying clash in Slovenia this evening.
Southgate and Rooney sat side by side in a cramped press conference room at Ljubljana’s Stadium Stozice last night following a day of speculation that Rooney, England’s captain, would only be named among the substitutes for tonight’s fixture.
Rooney was offered the chance to duck the pre-match briefing after news of the selection had spilled out but the 30-year-old striker took his place alongside the manager to stress that he remains fully supportive of the team.
“I’ve played 13 years non-stop for England, given everything, and a time comes when you’re not the first name on the team sheet, like I have been in the past,” said Rooney, who was deployed in midfield in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Malta and was booed by a small section of the Wembley Stadium crowd.
“I understand it’s a difficult decision for Gareth. I respect the decision totally. All I can do is prepare for the game if needed.
“I’m not denying it’s a difficult period, obviously I’ve been on the bench for Manchester United for the last few games but that’s part of football.
“I’m ready to come on if needed but, to be honest, hopefully I’m not needed. Hopefully we win the game and I don’t have to come on to help us win it.
“I’ll support the players 100 per cent and try to help the players get three points. I have great pride in playing for my country, whether it is starting or coming from the bench or in a squad of players that I’m pleased to be involved with.
“You want to be on the pitch but my role as captain won’t change around the hotel with the players, that remains the same. There is no embarrassment. I show great pride playing for my country.”
Southgate confirmed Rooney had lost his midfield slot to Eric Dier and said that Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson will inherit the armband.
The England manager, who is only taking charge of his second game after replacing Sam Allardyce last month, insisted that Rooney still has an international future and that he was simply picking a midfield designed to beat Slovenia.
“It is not an easy decision to take because of the respect I have for him as a player and person and captain of this team but we felt it was the right decision,” Southgate explained.
“It is a football decision. On a human level it’s a very difficult decision because I don’t like the idea that there might be an element of satisfaction for some people that he’s not in the team. I’m probably more annoyed by that than he is.
“He is still captain of this team while I am in charge. Everything I have seen this week has only improved and reinforced the feeling of how impressive a leader he is of this squad.”