Southgate hails Rooney reaction to Slovenia omission

Monday 10 Oct 2016
Wayne Rooney Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate has praised Wayne Rooney for how he's taken the news that he will not start against Slovenia on Tuesday.

The England captain was informed on Sunday evening that he would not be in the team for the Three Lions' third 2018 World Cup qualifier, but requested that he face the media at the Stadion Stozice upon arrival in Ljubljana regardless.

Slovenia v England

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
European Qualifiers (Group F)
7.45pm (BST), Tuesday 11 October
Stadion Stozice, Ljubljana
Live on ITV

Rooney sat alongside his manager at the pre-match press conference, with Southgate saying the decision to leave out the skipper was not related to his performance in Saturday's victory over Malta.

"It's very straightforward," the interim boss said of the decision to draft Eric Dier into his midfield. 

"We've looked at Slovenia and the way they play, and from when I looked at that midway through last week I knew in my mind the profile of the midfield we wanted to play and what was needed from this game.

"In no way is it a reflection on Wayne's performance on Saturday – in fact, we were very pleased with what he did. We knew we'd have a lot of the ball, he dictated the game and played with great tactical discipline.

"Of course, it's not an easy decision to take because of the respect I have for him as a player, as a person and as a captain of this team. We felt it was the right decision to go with the team that we're starting with.


“We spoke at length – I think that's the right thing to do”

Gareth Southgate 


"I felt it was important to give him time to deal with it," continued Southgate. "We spoke yesterday (Sunday) at length – I think that's the right thing to do. I'm conscious that when you make a decision like that, with Wayne, there's bigger implications.

"Immediately not only did he accept the news with great professionalism but was also very keen to come and speak today. I wasn't so sure that was a good idea because I don't want to subject him to being in the spotlight any more than he already is but, on reflection, I think it was a great opportunity for him to talk about his pride of playing for his country and to let you know exactly how he feels about it.

"He's still captain of this team while I'm in charge. Everything I've seen this week has only improved the feeling of how impressive he's been as a leader of this group.

"The maturity with which he's gone about his work all week has impressed all of us."


FATV picks out the big lines from the pre-match media briefing in Slovenia


Rooney, who revealed in September that he plans to end his international career after the current World Cup campaign, said he accepted Southgate's move.

"I understand and respect the manager's decision," said the 30-year-old. "I'll support the players 100 per cent, and I'll try to help them get three points tomorrow.

"I'll be ready, of course, to come on from the bench if needed – I show great pride in playing for my country, whether that's from the start or the bench. We're a squad of players which I'm pleased to be involved in.

"Of course you want to be on the pitch, that goes without saying, but my role as captain won't change off the pitch and around the hotel with the players. That remains the same. I'll be supporting the players, which I've done over the last couple of days, and hoping we can get the win.

"There's no embarrassment. Nothing has changed in terms of my future in the next couple of years – if selected, I'm available to play. I love playing for my country."

By Jim Lucas