Rooney to make final England bow
15 November 2018, 05:39 | Updated: 15 November 2018, 05:40
Wayne Rooney will wear the captain's armband and England number 10 shirt for the last time on a celebratory night that Gareth Southgate believes befits one of the country's best ever players.
The Three Lions' all-time top scorer and most-capped outfield player will come on for his 120th and final international appearance in Thursday's friendly against the United States at Wembley.
Rooney is set to be joined by his children during a pre-match guard of honour that will end with him collecting a memento from Football Association chairman Greg Clarke, before returning to the field in the second half as skipper.
The way his record-breaking international career is being recognised in the Wayne Rooney Foundation International has divided opinion, which Southgate believes highlights the lack of appreciation for the DC United forward.
"I think that has been clear this week - it has been disappointing to see him almost have to defend his inclusion in the game but that is where we are," the England boss said.
"The more important thing is that within the England group we value what he has done, when you are in the dressing room and share the dressing room with someone you know.
"The hardest thing in football is to cross the white line and it is incredibly hard when you are the person who is expected to deliver.
"Very few people in the world can appreciate what that feels like, very different to run of the mill players like me who played for England."
Rooney came to Wembley on the eve of the match to soak up the surroundings ahead of his final appearance for England, with the team flexing their collective muscle to ensure he got the send-off that he deserves.
Harry Kane replaced the 33-year-old as captain and played a key role in making sure that he wore the number 10 shirt on Thursday, when Fabian Delph, skippering his country for the first time, will hand over the armband.
"The senior players discussed it. Harry came to see me and said: 'Look, we don't think it would be right for him to come on wearing a shirt he hasn't worn'," said Southgate, who calls Rooney the best England striker he ever played with.
"Part of the game is to pay tribute to what he's done, and I think players always look at how they would like to be treated in that situation.
"I know last week we said it was unlikely because he'd be on the bench, but I think sometimes when you have discussions and you are able to think through what we stand for as a group and the way we're trying to work, then those moments it's good for the players to have an opinion.
"They're the ones who are playing tomorrow. And there's no rulebook. Who decides?"
While Thursday's match will bring the curtain down on Rooney's England career, Southgate will hand out a "few debuts" to others.
Southgate intends to experiment with Sunday's Nations League encounter against Croatia looming large, with Callum Wilson, Lewis Dunk and Alex McCarthy set to make their debuts.
Joe Gomez will not be risked with Sunday's match in mind, while Luke Shaw will be assessed due to a minor complaint.