Belfast Telegraph

Rooney apologises to Southgate, FA and young fans for 'inappropriate' images

England captain Wayne Rooney has "unreservedly" apologised to interim manager Gareth Southgate, the Football Association and young fans following the emergence of "inappropriate" images from the weekend.

The 31-year-old regained his place in the Three Lions' starting line-up last Friday, when he helped secure a 3-0 win against oldest foes Scotland in a crucial World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

A minor knee injury saw Rooney withdraw from the squad on the eve of Tuesday's 2-2 draw with Spain, after which Southgate was forced to deny the absence was anything to do with images that emerged from The Grove hotel on Saturday night.

The Sun alleged that Rooney dropped in on a wedding party, with the paper printing a photo appearing to show the Manchester United forward, sporting an England training top, looking the worse for wear.

The FA is to review players' free time as a result of an incident that led Rooney to apologise in private to interim boss Southgate and the governing body's technical director Dan Ashworth.

In a statement issued on Rooney's behalf to Press Association Sport on Wednesday evening, the player's spokesperson said: "Naturally Wayne is sorry that pictures taken with fans have been published today.

"Although it was a day off for the whole squad and staff, he fully recognises that the images are inappropriate for someone in his position.

"Earlier today Wayne spoke privately to both Gareth Southgate and Dan Ashworth to unreservedly apologise.

"He would like to further extend that apology to any young fans who have seen these pictures."

Press Association Sport understands that figures within the FA were disappointed by the incident, with all those involved that evening being spoken to.

The players' code of conduct is still in place and any repercussions will be dealt with internally, although the governing body has confirmed that overnight free time, which has been in place for a number of years, will be reviewed.

An FA spokesperson said: "All England personnel have a responsibility to behave appropriately at all times. We will be reviewing our policy around free time whilst on international duty."

Southgate had not seen the images of Rooney when speaking after Tuesday's 2-2 draw with Spain, but the interim manager said the issue would be reviewed by the FA, even if he was not selected as permanent manager.

"The players over the last few years have been allowed to go home during a period of time," the former defender said.

"They trained Saturday morning and again on Sunday afternoon and I gave the players a period of time off.

"I am not aware of anything else but obviously I would have to review it.

"There were lots of changes we made to routines. Some things we felt, okay, we should keep the same and I will have to review - or maybe I won't have to review - somebody will have to review!"

What Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho thinks about the matter will become clear when he addresses the media on Friday ahead of the Premier League clash with Arsenal.

Rooney has endured a tough campaign, finding himself in the unusual situation of fighting for his place in the team.

The 31-year-old ended his goal drought in the recent Europa League clash at Fenerbahce and impressed as United headed into the international break with a 3-1 win at Swansea.

Rooney dropped to the bench in last month's qualifier in Slovenia, but returned to the starting line-up as Scotland were beaten at Wembley.

United return to action on Saturday lunchtime against Arsenal, before hosting Feyenoord in the Europa League. England are not in action again until March's glamour friendly in Germany.

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