Belfast Telegraph

England players rally to defend skipper Wayne Rooney in wake of Wembley boo-boys

By Rory Dollard

Wayne Rooney's team-mates have rallied to his defence after he was booed on England's Wembley return.

Rooney was barracked by a small but audible section of the 81,000 crowd during Saturday's 2-0 win over Malta, most noticeably when he sent a late shot high and wide.

It continues a trend of difficult days for the captain, who was poor in the Euro 2016 defeat by Iceland and again in Sam Allardyce's solitary match in charge in Slovakia last month.

In all three matches Rooney, the country's record goalscorer, has operated in a midfield role he still appears to be feeling his way into.

Manager Gareth Southgate was left baffled by the reaction to Rooney on England's first return to HQ since June, with Jordan Henderson and John Stones also standing staunchly behind their skipper.

"He wears his heart on his sleeve and gives 110 per cent and you can see that in every performance. I am a bit shocked that (booing) happened," said Stones.

"I thought Wayne was brilliant. He has been every time he has played for England.

"In my opinion he is always up there and on form. The top players are always going to get the stick that gets piled on them because of the standards he sets.

"He has never dropped that in training once or in the games and I think that's why he has been a top player for so long."

While Stones' suggestion that the 30-year-old has never suffered a dip in an international career spanning 13 years and 117 caps stretches credulity somewhat, support from inside the dressing room has been a constant in that time.

Henderson comfortably outshone Rooney in the engine room, turning in a man-of-the-match performance and teeing up both of England's goals.

But the Liverpool captain was also generous in his praise for the Manchester United man.

"Wayne is experienced enough to just concentrate on the football," he said. "He's had criticism through a lot of his career, like a lot of players have, and he deals with it very well.

"He's our captain and our leader and is a fantastic player for both Manchester United and England. He put in a fantastic performance, got on the ball well and broke it up too to win it back for us.

"I didn't really hear any boos, but if you're telling me he was booed we have to deal with that as players."

Belfast Telegraph


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