Rooney backlash shows England is a "strange country" says Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate has claimed England is a “strange country” following the criticism surrounding Wayne Rooney’s Wembley farewell.

Three Lions legend Peter Shilton led the voices of dissent, accusing the FA of giving out cheap caps.

But Southgate believes England has not done enough for past heroes – including the 1966 World Cup-winning side – and finds it odd there has been so much opposition to the Rooney tribute, when he has won 119 caps and is the national team’s record goal scorer.

The furore has even overshadowed the surprise call-up for Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson.

Three Lions boss Southgate named a 28-man squad on Thursday for a friendly with the USA next Thursday and Nations League finale against this summer’s World Cup semi-final conquerors Croatia, also at Wembley, three days later.


He said of former England team-mate Rooney, who will play as a sub against USA: “He has earned the right to that cap over a period of 10 years and six major tournaments with England. He is the country’s record goal scorer.

“The fact is it is an opportunity to pay tribute to what he has achieved.

“We are a strange country in that we bemoan the fact 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 yet spend a lot of time justifying giving him that tribute.”

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Southgate says he understands the debate surrounding the merits of the game but wants to change the culture, citing Lukas Podolski’s farewell game for Germany — against England — in March last year.

“I thought the Podolski situation, that was a super night,” said Southgate.

“If I had been a player, and had given what those guys had given, I’d have walked away from there feeling my association had really recognised me in a fitting way. And I think that’s important for players.


“We’ve seen that with players like Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Toure at Manchester City . Clubs on certain occasions have done that really well. We don’t often have the chance to do that with a national association.

“Everybody says, ‘We didn’t do it for Bobby Moore or for Bobby Charlton’ — but I don’t think any of us are particularly happy about that.

“So we are doing it on this occasion. And I think it’s a really nice way to pay tribute to Wayne’s career.”

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