Roy Hodgson defended his decision to deprive Wayne Rooney of the chance to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record in England’s 6-0 win over San Marino.
Rooney equalled Charlton’s 49-goal tally with a 12th minute penalty, but was then taken off just before the hour as the minnows were starting to tire.
If Rooney had stayed on, he would have almost certainly scored his 50th goal, but Hodgson would not alter his plan to take the striker off to keep him fresh for Tuesday’s qualifier against Switzerland at Wembley.
“The substitution was planned with a view to Tuesday night,” the England manager said.
“It would be nice if Wayne could get the 50th goal against Switzerland on Tuesday night, but one thing is for certain – he’ll get it.
“If it’s not on Tuesday, it might be October, if it’s not October, it might be in November, and if it’s not in November, it might be 2016. But he’ll get it. It’s not as if this was his last and only chance.
“If this was his last game for England and he needed one more goal to break the record, I wouldn’t have taken him off.”
Great feeling being in the same company as Sir Bobby Charlton. Proud moment for me and my family
— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) September 5, 2015
Rooney calmly slotted the penalty past Aldo Simoncini to give England an early lead after the referee spotted a push in the box, and the floodgates opened after the break to allow the visitors to seal the win that meant they became the first nation to qualify for Euro 2016.
The skipper held his arms aloft and pointed to the sky in his celebration before waving to his wife Coleen and eldest son Kai, who had made the trip to the Stadio Olimpico in Seravalle in the hope of watching the star rewrite the history books.
His 49th goal may have come against a team containing a bank clerk, an accountant and a man who works in a ceramics shop, but that did not take any gloss off the striker’s enjoyment at equalling one of his heroes.
”Obviously it is a proud moment for me to equal Sir Bobby’s record and my aim now is to push on, to help the team get the victory on Tuesday night and try to break that record to become the outright holder,” the Manchester United forward said.
The skipper also backed the decision to substitute him.
He said: “To be honest I knew that the most I was going to play was an hour.
“There is a game coming up on Tuesday. It was a good opportunity for the manager to get a few players on the pitch, so whether I had scored one or three, the most I was going to play was an hour.
“I was just happy to get the goal and the win.”