After denying he had even attended that wedding — his last act as an England player until this controversial recall — Wayne Rooney gave the impression on Tuesday that he also considers it unfair to be cast as a party-crasher at Wembley this week.
Someone had to mention the drinking session at the England team hotel two years ago that seemed to persuade Gareth Southgate to omit Rooney from his squad.
Not least because it did feel like a rather unfortunate end to the international career of England’s most prolific striker and most-capped outfield player.
Wayne Rooney fielded some awkward questions but hit back at critics of his call-up
As a teenager he burst onto the international stage against Turkey and never looked back
Was his desire to play against the USA motivated, in part, by composing a different conclusion to his England story?
Rooney bristled at the mention of that incident at the Grove Hotel, Watford, in November 2016, as he did when it was suggested he had not been selected by Southgate since.
‘He did pick me again, actually, last season,’ he said, in reference to the conversation he and Southgate claim to have had in August 2017, when Rooney declined an invitation to rejoin the England squad and instead announced his international retirement.
‘And I never entered the wedding. That’s another story. But I haven’t been in a squad since the Scotland game. Partly through not playing for Man United and not getting selected and then the second part of it through making the decision to retire.’
Gareth Southgate welcomed Rooney back into the England set-up for the USA friendly
734 days between Rooney’s 119th cap v Scotland and his expected 120th.
71 England wins with Rooney, plus 29 draws and 19 defeats.
7 goals in his six major tournaments, including four as an 18-year-old at Euro 2004.
He scored only once at a World Cup, against Uruguay in 2014.
22 games as captain, plus seven when he took over the armband.
2 red cards, as well as 12 yellows.
It was not the only awkward moment at St George’s Park on Tuesday. The whole thing felt a bit uncomfortable given the response to this bizarre decision to give him a 120th cap 15 months after he called it quits.
As a tweet from his wife indicated on Tuesday, Rooney is a little upset by the criticism Southgate and the FA have endured since the plan to recall him emerged.
‘Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,’ said Rooney, without providing much of an argument for why his selection had not in any way devalued representing the England team.
The 33-year-old stayed on message for the majority of his responses. It was a collective decision between his camp and the FA. He could not stress enough that what was most important was the fact money was being raised for the children supported by his foundation.
But it was when Rooney relaxed a little, when he started to speak more from the heart than from a script, that we got to see what he was really thinking.
The 33-year-old seems to be thoroughly enjoying training with England again
To his credit, he would not have agreed to this game if it had moved him ahead of Peter Shilton as England’s most-capped player.
Given that Shilton has been one of the fiercest critics of his selection for this friendly, that is probably just as well. ‘I would never have done that,’ he said.
He was also generous enough to praise Southgate for having the courage to promote young players. ‘Fearless,’ was how Rooney described England’s manager, the most fearless of the six permanent bosses he has worked with.
He said he had agreed with Southgate to address the players and share his experiences as an international footballer while he is here with them this week.
But what Tuesday lacked was a more detailed reflection of what remains a fine England career, of opportunities missed as well as opportunities taken — of that night when he burst on to the international scene against Turkey in 2003 to that moment when he arrived at the England team hotel in Baden-Baden to declare: ‘The big man is back!’
‘The one that stands out for me is the goal against Switzerland to break the record,’ he said. ‘That was a special moment and something I’ll always look back on.’
Rooney scored his 50th goal for England against Switzerland to become the top scorer
The achievement is one he cherishesand is something he feels ‘immense pride’ about
He was asked if he had any regrets. He could have said it was his failure to build on those marvellous performances at Euro 2004 in a major tournament, but he said it was the fact he had not been given the opportunity to say thank you to the fans.
Surely he regrets retiring 10 months before that marvellous 2018 World Cup campaign? ‘My decision, I still believe now, was the right decision,’ he said.
‘I could see the younger players coming into the squad and I just felt it was the right time for me to stop and the right time for those younger lads to have the opportunity to step up.
‘My time has been and gone. Some good games, some bad games. That’s the story of my England career. I’ll take away being the record goalscorer and representing my country 119 times and feeling immense pride.’ Plus Thursday night, obviously.