Wayne Rooney vowed to fight back from the bench as the England captain prepares to take his place among the substitutes in Slovenia.
The country’s most capped outfield player and all-time top scorer is to be reduced to a watching brief in Ljubljana after interim boss Gareth Southgate took the bold – and perhaps belated – decision to drop the 30-year-old.
Rooney has struggled for form and a regular place in the Manchester United line-up recently, with a smattering of fans going as far as to boo the Three Lions captain during Saturday’s straightforward win against Malta at Wembley.
His performance in the England midfield was branded below-par in our Monday Verdict, which used stats to show that Rooney should call time with immediate effect on his international career.
The booing was a reaction he claimed not to have heard – an assertion some may question the credibility of, yet the fact he answered it at all was remarkable.
Rooney, against Southgate’s initial advice, wanted to speak at the pre-match press conference, giving candid, direct and forthright answers to broadcasters and writers several hours after news of his omission leaked out.
“I wouldn’t say brutal,” he said. “I think there are many people playing in the Premier League and around the country who would only dream of being part of an England squad.
“I’ve done it 117 times, but of course a time comes where there might be a bit of a change, but all I can do is keep working and turning up, so that I am ready when called upon.
“I understand this is part of football. It is something which you have to go through and I am big enough to deal with it.”
Rooney insists he can recover
Professionalism should not be mistaken for accepting this is the beginning of the end, though.
“I am 30 years of age,” Rooney said. “I am not 35 or 36 where you are thinking, ‘Can you get back from it?’.
“I will just keep working. I have said before that I will not stop playing for England and then think of going to Dubai for a few days in the international break. I will turn up when called upon and be ready.”
Henderson backs Rooney
Southgate’s decision was borne out of the desire to better cope with Slovenia’s strengths, meaning Eric Dier, who starred in an otherwise disappointing Euro 2016, comes into the side.
Jordan Henderson, man of the match against Malta, will captain the side in Rooney’s absence.
“Wayne is very experienced, for me he has been one of the best players in the world for many years and he sets an example to all of us on and off the field,” the Liverpool skipper said.
“He is someone we all look up to as a captain and a leader for his experience and the type of person that he is.
“He is massive for this team and just because he is not playing, it won’t change anything.
“I am sure people will make a big deal of him not starting but, in football, teams change tactically for different opposition and for different reasons.
“As I said, this doesn’t change anything for us as a team in terms of Wayne not starting. He is our captain, he leads by example, and he’ll be ready to come on and make an impact when given the opportunity.”