Wayne Rooney England farewell talks have been underway for a year - Gareth Southgate
LONDON -- England manager Gareth Southgate has revealed talks have been taking place with Wayne Rooney about a farewell game for more than a year and the DC United striker rejected the opportunity to participate in a fixture ahead of the World Cup.
Southgate revealed that Rooney did not want to distract the squad ahead of the tournament, and also insisted it was the right decision to call up Rooney to face the United States on Nov. 15.
"I think all of the players would respect that Wayne's contribution deserves the best possible send-off," Southgate told a news conference after announcing his squad. "I understand that has caused a lot of debate and conjecture but for me it is a small way of appreciating what he has done for his country.
"There was a possibility around the Nigeria game [to honour him], but Wayne was adamant he didn't want to detract from the team and their preparations. This game is the first opportunity we've had at Wembley to do that."
Southgate cited the examples of the international tributes paid to Lukas Podolski, David Silva and Wesley Sneijder by Germany, Spain and Netherlands respectively in recent years to justify Rooney's selection, adding that he considers the national team's heritage a vital part of the culture he is trying to build.
"I'm still able to look to the future in terms of the squad I've picked and the things I want to see, but also I've talked a lot to the players in terms of the importance of the shirt, the history of the shirt," he added.
"I'd have to say I don't think we've been brilliant at [honouring former players] over the years. We can't do anything about how we've done it in the past, but I know how much it meant to the squad of '66 to come to St George's Park a few months ago and have a dinner when we mentioned the entrance after Sir Alf Ramsey. I know what it meant to Sir Bobby Charlton when he came to St George's and we named the pitch after him a few months ago.
"I really think it's important that the former players feel part of what we're doing with England."
Southgate confirmed that Rooney will not wear the No. 10 shirt against the U.S., but would not be drawn on whether England's all-time leading goalscorer will wear the captain's armband when he plays.
"We've always been one to 11 with England outside of tournaments," Southgate said. "We have had some discussions about whether we should have squad numbers moving forwards. We haven't decided on that at this time, so he wouldn't wear No. 10 because he won't start the game.
"In terms of the captaincy, the last game he played with me, Jordan Henderson ran over and gave him the armband when he came on. I guess that will depend on the circumstances of the game and the players that are out there, but I have no issue with that at all."
Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson and Brighton defender Lewis Dunk have been handed call-ups by Southgate for the friendly against the U.S. and the UEFA Nations League clash with Croatia.
Wilson, who has received his first call, has started the new Premier League season in the form of his life, registering six goals and four assists in 11 appearances to help Bournemouth surge to sixth in the table.
Dunk has impressed starting 10 of Brighton's 11 Premier League matches at the heart of a defence that has kept three clean sheets in its last four games.
Rooney is included for the last time as he prepares to be honoured with a 120th cap against the USA, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is recalled in midfield.
Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Fabian Delph are all back in the 28-man group after missing the October fixtures through injury, while Southgate has also decided to take another look at Everton defender Michael Keane.
James Maddison and Mason Mount, handed their first senior England call-ups last month, miss out due to knee and foot injuries respectively. Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho and Leicester City defender Ben Chilwell keep their places in the squad.
Leicester defender Harry Maguire is unavailable due to a knee injury while Watford midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah, who made his senior England debut against Spain, is out again after picking up a knee problem last month.
Full England squad:
Goalkeepers: Marcus Bettinelli (Fulham), Jack Butland (Stoke City), Alex McCarthy (Southampton), Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Michael Keane (Everton), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), Harry Winks (Tottenham Hotspur), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United)
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Wayne Rooney (DC United)*, Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal), Callum Wilson (AFC Bournemouth)