Wayne Rooney says some of his former international colleagues are bitter about England’s recent success under Gareth Southgate, but insists he’s not one of them.
The D.C. United veteran won his 120th and final cap for England in Thursday’s 3-0 friendly victory over the United States. Although the country’s all-time leading scorer was given a respectful send-off at Wembley, his farewell match did spark off-field debate due to his involvement in an England era blighted by underachievement.
It seems that some of Rooney’s ex-teammates are uncomfortable with being included among a supposed “golden generation” that flopped, and are struggling to appreciate an upturn in fortunes under Southgate.
“I know there are some ex-players who I’ve spoken to who can’t come to terms with England doing well,” Rooney said, per The Guardian’s Jacob Steinberg. “That is wrong. I’m not like that. I’m a fan now. I want England to do well.
“I am proud to have played for England so many times and I always have been. I’ve had my time. I am happy with what I’ve contributed to the national team and I look forward now to the next few years and watching this team progress.”
Since Southgate replaced Sam Allardyce after his disastrous 67-day tenure in September 2016, he has ushered in a young generation of English talent that reached the semifinal of the 2018 World Cup, and with a win over Croatia on Sunday the team can book a place in the final four of the Nations League. Southgate has been credited with fostering team spirit in the England camp and eliminating the detrimental divides that Dean Ashton encountered during his time in the Three Lions’ fold.
Rooney acknowledged that star names surrounded him in the years preceding Southgate’s unveiling – Rooney rubbed shoulders with the likes of David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, John Terry, and Rio Ferdinand on England squads – but he says the current generation isn’t lacking headline acts either.
“The team I played in had superstars, but this team has also got superstars,” the 33-year-old said. “Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, John Stones – one of the best center-backs in world football. England have got great players and they’ve also got young players.”
He added: “Everyone can see the potential in the team is huge. They have come off the back of a hugely successful World Cup, but in a strange way I think the game against Spain (October’s 3-2 win in Seville) will give them even more confidence than what they did in the summer. That was a massive result, to win away in Spain. To be around the squad, to see how Gareth is coaching, was great.”
Rooney said he admires Jadon Sancho when asked if he was jealous of the 18-year-old’s burgeoning career with Borussia Dortmund and England, saying “I’ve had my time.” He also said that it’s now up to Southgate and his team to build on this year’s achievements in the World Cup and Nations League.