Interim manager Gareth Southgate has spoke of his bewilderment at the negativity displayed towards his captain Wayne Rooney, as sections of the crowd at Wembley, booed after his name was announced as England defeated Malta 2-0 on Saturday.
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has dropped Rooney already this season, his last game being the 21st September and being slowly omitted from playing in club games, makes it increasingly difficult to be chosen to play for the England squad.
Southgate has proved he still has confidence in the striker, presenting him with his 117th cap, but this hasn’t stopped Rooney’s worth within the squad being debated and the fans turning on him once again.
“If you look at the number of games and Wayne’s goalscoring feats for England, I don’t understand that (booing),” said Southgate. “But that seems to be the landscape. I have no idea how that is expected to help him, for sure.
“I presented him with a cap in the week for being the record outfield cap holder with his country. It’s fascinating to get an insight into his world over the last 10 days. Every debate focuses on him. The onus on him is enormous.
“The criticism of him is, at times, unfair. He ploughs on and plays with pride and captains his country with pride. I always look back to the Terrys, the Lampards, the Ashley Coles. In their time with England they took an enormous amount of criticism, but, if you look at their caps, they kept turning out putting themselves on the line.
“Others have not put themselves forward and withdrawn from squads when the going has got tough. Those guys put their neck on the block and played for their country again and again.”
Southgate thrust into the boots of departing manager Sam Allardyce just 12 days before this match, decided to continue play Rooney in a deep lying midfield role, a position that Mourinho insists he cannot play, despite occupying this position for the last six international appearances.
Southgate now has to decide if he will continue to play Rooney alongside Jordan Henderson as England face higher opposition against Slovenia Tuesday night.