Wayne Rooney understands why his international return might divide opinion but hopes such occasions become the norm for England greats of the future.
Nobody has scored more goals for the national team, nor has any outfield player represented the Three Lions more, but news of the 33-year-old’s one-off comeback appearance against the United States still split opinion.
The debate over Rooney’s 120th and final cap dominated a packed press conference previewing the friendly, but the DC United forward brushed aside those questioning the decision to recognise in contribution.
Instead, the former Manchester United and Everton great hopes this will become the norm for stars of the future.
“I think everyone is entitled to their opinions,” Rooney said of a match that will support the Wayne Rooney Foundation.
“The most important thing is, speaking with the FA, we both felt it was right. The players obviously who I have spoke to and the FA (I) have spoken to, they agreed, they think it is right.
“As a country, obviously we haven’t done anything like this before. It’s the first time.
“I hope that in 10, 15 years’ time, we’re sat here for someone say Harry Kane, who could possibly go on and get the goal-scoring record.
“Then it will be something that happens again and of course it’s something different. I am not asking people to agree with it.”
While Rooney would have loved the likes of Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer to come into the dressing room during his playing days, his return has been slated by the likes of all-time cap holder Peter Shilton and his former interim England boss Stuart Pearce.
“I think we all know that a lot of the older players, particularly the players who won the World Cup, weren’t treated as well as possibly they should have been,” he said.
“But that’s through no fault of the members of the FA or coaching staff today. I think the FA are trying to move in a different direction and celebrate the players who have made an impact for their country. So, it’s going to split opinions because it’s the first one, but hopefully in the future there will be a lot more.”
Striking the balance between being authoritative and humble, Rooney confirmed that he turned down the chance to bid farewell in the World Cup warm-up friendly against Nigeria.
Rooney praised the work being done by “fearless” Gareth Southgate, who he was captain under during the manager’s interim reign.
The 33-year-old was impressed and proud in equal measures when watching England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals, but there was no tinge of regret about calling time on his international career.
“No,” Rooney said. “My decision, I believe still now, was the right decision.
“I could see the younger players coming into the squad and I just felt it was the right time for me obviously to stop playing, the right time for those younger lads to have the opportunity to step up.”
Know more about Sport360 Application