Wayne Rooney has defended the Football Association’s (FA) decision to grant him the chance of a farewell outing for England, saying he turned down the chance to do so before the World Cup to ensure the timing was right.
Rooney, England’s former captain and all-time leading goalscorer, is due to come on in the second half of Thursday’s friendly match with the United States at Wembley to win his 120th and final cap.
There has been some criticism of the decision to grant the 33-year-old a special appearance, with his last outing for England coming two years ago, in the 3-0 win over Scotland in qualifying for Russia 2018.
But Rooney hopes to set a trend for England players being recognised for their careers, having discussed the best course of action with the FA over the past year.
“We were speaking for about 12 months over the different ideas and there was an opportunity to do the game before the World Cup, which I didn’t feel was right and this we both felt was the right time,” he told a news conference.
“The players were preparing for the biggest tournament in football and personally I didn’t think it was right to get in the way of that.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinions. The most important thing is we both felt it was right, the players I’ve spoken to and the FA have spoken to agreed, and as a country we haven’t done anything like this before and I hope in 10, 15 years’ time we’re sat here for someone, say a Harry Kane, who could possibly go on and get the goalscoring record, that it will happen again.
“It’ll be strange but something I’m looking forward to. I had my first training session [on Monday] and it was strange getting back in amongst the players but to run out at Wembley again will be something I’m extremely proud of, a special moment.”
Rooney, who says the final decision on him playing against USA was made after his DC United side exited the MLS play-offs this month, insists his outing will not be ruined if he fails to score.
“My message to Gareth [Southgate] was to get what he wants out of the game and at some stage during the second half I can come on,” he said. “It’d be nice [to score] but the main thing is to obviously run out one last time and have the opportunity to thank the fans for the years I’ve played for them.
“It’s an important night to try to raise money for the children [through the Wayne Rooney Foundation], which I’m really close to. It is an important match for me and to score would be perfect, but if it doesn’t happen, I’m not going to let that ruin the occasion.”
Rooney also hopes to leave a positive impact on the young England stars in Southgate’s squad, which includes 18-year-old Jadon Sancho, 20-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold and former Manchester United team-mate Marcus Rashford, who is 21.
“I can’t recall a time when an ex-player came to the training ground or was around the players,” Rooney added. “Gareth Southgate wants to move forward and to go this way.
“People like Glenn Hoddle and Ian Wright have been in. Some of the younger players might have been too young to see them play actually, but for the older ones they’re their heroes and it’s good for them to know they’re still part of the set-up.
“Some of my heroes growing up were Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer. If one of those two would have walked in the dressing room I’d have been in awe of them and it would have been great for the team, to speak to them and get some advice.”