England’s record goalscorer Wayne Rooney believes farewells for high-profile former players will become the norm as he prepares to bring down the curtain on his international career against the United States on Thursday.
Rooney, 33, won the last of 119 caps in 2016 and retired from international football last year ahead of the Three Lions’ run to the last four of the World Cup.
The decision to welcome back the DC United forward for a Wembley farewell has divided opinion. Rooney is set to make an appearance as a substitute.
However, the former Everton and Manchester United striker thinks his cameo will be the first in a change to how England’s Football Association (FA) pay tribute to those who have had outstanding international careers.
“A lot of the older players, players who won the World Cup, weren’t treated as well as they should have been,” said Rooney on Tuesday.
“That’s through no fault of the members of the FA or coaching staff today. The FA are trying to move in a different direction and celebrate the players who have made an impact for their country.
“It’ll be split opinions because it’s the first one, but hopefully there’ll be a lot more in the future.”
Many former England players have criticised the move. Peter Shilton, who holds the record for most England appearances with 125, told the BBC caps should not be “given out like gifts.”
Rooney insisted he made no demands on the FA or England manager Gareth Southgate and even rejected the chance for the farewell to take place in a friendly against Nigeria before the World Cup.
“There was an opportunity for the game before the World Cup which I felt wasn’t the right time to do that,” he added.
“So this, we both felt, was the right time. My season is over in the States, and the game against USA, a friendly match before the lads play Croatia on Sunday, we all felt it was the right time and the right game.”
Despite scoring 53 international goals to surpass Bobby Charlton’s previous best of 49, Rooney often failed to live up to expectations at major tournaments as his so-called “Golden Generation” never progressed beyond a quarter-final.
Yet, he insisted he has no regrets about retiring just a year before Southgate’s young squad produced England’s best performance at a World Cup since 1990.
“No. My decision, I believe still now, was the right decision.
“I could see the younger players coming into the squad and I just felt it was the right time for me obviously to stop, but also the right time for those younger lads to have the opportunity to step up, and for someone like Harry Kane to take over as captain.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but when I looked at it I felt, for myself and the team, it was the right time.”