Wayne Rooney vows to inspire England to success despite tough times
Wayne Rooney admits it was a “shame” to see Sam Allardyce sacked as England boss, but urged the squad to stick together after a tumultuous week.
Allardyce’s ignominious exit last week, after just 67 days and one game in charge, came after a newspaper investigation into football corruption.
Gareth Southgate has been installed as interim manager for the next four matches, and one of his first announcements was to retain Rooney as captain.
The Manchester United forward is likely to lead England out against Malta at Wembley on Saturday in the second of their 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
And the 30-year-old is eager to focus on football after a “tough couple of weeks” off the field for the national side.
Rooney said: “We need to build on the three points we won in the last game (against Slovakia), and the other side of it isn’t our issue, it’s nothing for us to be concerned about.
“It’s a shame, everyone could see how excited Sam was for the job and he came in and showed that enthusiasm to the players. It’s a shame it’s happened and I’m sure he deeply regrets it. It was a decision for the FA to take.
“As a group of players we need to stick together and concentrate on the football. For the FA I’m sure it has been a tough couple of weeks but for the players we’ve been with our clubs and we have to focus on the games.”
Rooney also admitted to being sick of the constant questions about his best position.
Rooney played in Roy Hodgson’s midfield at Euro 2016 having ended Manchester United’s campaign there, only for Jose Mourinho’s appointment to see him shift back to a more attacking position.
“I don’t know, it’s a question for Gareth,” the England captain said. “The question of where I’m going to play...I’m getting a bit tired the question of whether I’m going to play as a striker, in midfield or as a number 10.
“I’ve answered that question many times and it’s the same answer: I’ll play wherever the manager wants me to play.
“I don’t pick myself, I haven’t picked myself ever and I will play to instructions.
“I’m sure the instructions from Gareth, whether it’s to play or not to play, are instructions I will carry out to the best of my ability.”
Named on the bench for United’s last three matches, Rooney arrives on England duty in the unusual position of looking for game time.
“Obviously I’m not starting at the moment at Manchester United but I have to work hard to try to get back in the team, which I’m doing, and when I get my chance I have to take it,” he said.
“But again I’m fully supportive of the team and the players, the manager and Manchester United.
“Of course I want to be involved but the most important thing is that we win.”
Rooney is understandably pleased to have been kept on as captain by his former international team-mate, who was parachuted into the role after Allardyce’s abrupt exit last Tuesday.
“In terms of starting again, I’m not sure. We need to build on the three points we got in the last game,” he said.
“We have to concentrate on playing the game.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital