England skipper Wayne Rooney is adamant that his Three Lions career is not over despite being axed by interim boss Gareth Southgate for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia in Ljubljana.
Rooney is set to be ousted by Tottenham’s Eric Dier in a deep-lying midfield role but has insisted he will continue to fight for his place until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, after which he has previously stated he will retire.
The 30-year-old has been told by Southgate that he will start as a substitute against Slovenia, in what might be construed as the first major signpost that Rooney is no longer an automatic selection on the international stage.
Rooney, who has also been a fixture on Manchester United’s bench for their last three matches, is adamant he fully respects the decision of Southgate and will be nothing but a supportive presence for the starting XI.
“I love playing for my country,” said Rooney, who appeared to be booed by a section of supporters during England’s unconvincing 2-0 victory over Malta on Saturday. “I’ve made it clear what my plans are and those plans won’t change.
“There is no embarrassment. I show great pride in playing for my country and if that’s from the bench, then that’s from the bench. Nothing has changed in terms of my future over the next couple of years.
“It’s football. I’ve played 13 years non-stop for England and have given everything, but a time comes when you’re not the first name on the team sheet, which I have been in the past.
“Of course I want to play but I understand and respect the manager’s decision and I will support the players 100 per cent and try and help the players get three points.
“I will be ready to come on from the bench if needed. Hopefully, I’m not needed. Hopefully we can win the game and I don’t have to come on and try and win it. I understand it’s a difficult decision for Gareth but I respect his decision totally.”
Southgate echoed Rooney’s stance and insisted while he remains in charge of the Three Lions – initially his tenure is set to be four matches – the door will not be closed on the country’s most capped outfield player.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to take because of the respect I have for him as a player, as a person and as the captain of this team but I felt it was the right decision,” said Southgate.
“He’s still captain of this team while I’m in charge. Everything I have seen this week has only improved the feeling of how impressive he’s been as a leader of this group.
“We’ve looked at Slovenia and the way they play and from that I’ve known in my mind the profile of midfielder that was needed for this game. It’s different players with different attributes and that’s the basis of the decision.”