Is the England Wayne Rooney 'Testimonial' an own goal by Southgate and the FA?

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 05 November 2018, 14:46

JUST BECAUSE it is good enough for the Spice Girls, it doesn’t make it ok for Wayne Rooney.

If like most of the nation, you groaned at the prospect of the worst female foursome in pop history coming out of retirement, one hopes you felt the same about Rooney’s comeback in an England shirt.

Rooney has only been in the wilderness of international football for a couple of years - unlike the ten years since The Spice Girls last laid siege to our ears before calling it a day in 2008.

Even so, the dramatic return of Rooney, revealed 24 hours before Sporty, Ginger, Posh and Scary also announced their comeback has a familiar ring of disappointment to it.

By inviting former England skipper Rooney back to play for one final, showpiece farewell against the USA next week has done more harm than good.

Instead of being heart-warmed by a touching gesture from the FA to repay a servant of the shirt with one last goodbye is seen by many as overindulgence at best, cynical marketing spin at worst.

The country thought that Southgate’s clean sweep through the England dressing room had rid us of all the pzazz and puff that followed the national team around for years with the Golden Generation of which Rooney was a keystone member. Not so it seems.

Yes, there is a charity element to his cameo appearance next Thursday against America. The Wembley Arch will even be lit up in its colours to promote the Rooney Foundation.

A worthy cause, it is part of Rooney’s next goal as he moves through life, which is to support causes that help disadvantaged kids. Ok.

But he has not played for England for two years. Since then Gary Cahill has effectively retired from international football as has Jamie Vardy. Will this become a regular thing and so will they get an invitation back to Wembley to kiss goodbye to the fans?

Since Rooney was shoved sideways out of the door by incoming England coach Southgate, the whole ethos of the squad has been remodelled. It has been stripped down from the massive commercial and self-obsessed bandwagon that talked a good game but got beaten on the pitch.

The team’s no better now of course, in fact slightly worse on paper despite reaching the World Cup semi finals in the summer. But the England squad did what it said on the tin.

There were no special arrangements made for star players, no cliques from players of different teams, no pomp and circumstance and a misguided belief that England had a divine right to a major trophy simply through the brand - until now of course.

Look beyond the charity angle and it may not come as a total surprise that Wayne Rooney’s delayed comeback has been saved until England face the USA. Rooney is currently playing for DC United in the MLS.

Surely only a cynic might suggest that the opponents have been specially selected for the big comeback to try to sell this specific match or the game in general over in the US where Rooney currently resides?

Record England appearance-holder Peter Shilton, who has more caps than anyone with 125, has already declared that this exercise in showboating ‘cheapens the shirt’.

The only big question now is whether Southgate had any sway over this decision to turn an England match into a farewell concert for Wayne Rooney?

If he didn’t then Southgate needs to address his bosses at the FA and reassert his power as the man who nudged Rooney into retirement.

If he did then he has just taken England back to the days when names meant more than the team. Back to when the Golden Generation of Rooney, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard looked good with their kit on as opposed to the Spice Girls while lacking combined talent - just like the ladies.

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