Wayne Rooney deserves his England swansong so quit your moaning


It takes a special talent to be the most controversial man currently living in Washington DC, but Wayne Rooney seems to be challenging for the position.

It is two years and three days since Rooney last ran out for his country. Now he’s back, for a nice trot in a who-cares friendly: an appearance curated specifically to raise money for his charitable foundation.

From the chorus of bedwetting that has greeted this innocuous occasion, you’d think he was planning to play the full 90 minutes in a Make America Great Again cap, with no shorts on.

The criticism of Rooney’s selection for Thursday’s knockabout against the USA rests on two sophisticated arguments.

The first is that Rooney is Rooney. The second is that England is England. Let’s deal with each in turn.

To the charge that Rooney is being afforded special treatment, we need only answer that of course he bloody is.

As his wife Coleen tweeted this week, Rooney is a record-breaker who has appeared more for his country than anyone except Peter Shilton, scored more goals than anyone and is still playing.

Yes, he’s playing MLS soccer, which is only a couple of leagues above competitive Connect Four in the retirement home.

But he has not disgraced himself — being just named in the XI of the season, alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has made a much less dignified go of being dropped from international football.

Have any other England captains been afforded similar luxuries?

No, but had they been invited in similar circumstances, most would have given it a go. David Beckham did everything to try and eke out his international career for as long as possible. John Terry has probably got his kit on as you read this.

No, Rooney did not always hit giddy heights in international tournaments, but that only serves to emphasise that a Thursday night rubber against the USA is the most fitting match he could have chosen for a send-off.

And if your answer to that is, ‘Yes, but what about getting a look at Troy Deeney?’, I’m afraid you’re probably down a wormhole from which there is no longer any prospect of escape.

On then, to the business of England; or more precisely to the value or otherwise of an England cap. England’s horse whisperer in chief and waistcoat model ne plus ultra, Gareth Southgate, has been much and rightly praised for his calm rebooting of the image and values of the national team.

It has been suggested that Southgate has mis-stepped here, allowing an individual’s priorities to trump the group’s best interests and chipping off some of the value he had replastered on to ‘The Shirt’.

Humbug. Southgate has shown himself a coach whose greatest asset outside the realm of the tactics whiteboard is his emotional intelligence.

He gets his players. He knows how to push their buttons. He has, we assume, given his blessing to bringing into the group, for one match only, an England legend his younger players might think of emulating.

To put that another way: the shirt, whatever it is, is only as valuable as the people who wear it. Rooney has earned his swansong, and he has chosen to use it wisely.

Hell, people might actually bother to watch the game. You could do worse than that.