Peter Shilton has accused the Football Association of “giving away caps” after Wayne Rooney was granted a Wembley farewell.
Three Lions legend Shilton, England’s all-time 125 cap record holder, says he is “shocked” by the decision and believes it is a big mistake which will also steal a young player’s place.
Former England captain Rooney, 33, will be given a 120th cap and the chance to say goodbye against USA on November 16 but the move has drawn heavy criticism of devaluing the honour of playing for England.
Shilton, 69, told Mirror Sport: “I was shocked when I read it and I’m still struggling to understand the decision. It’s been two years since Wayne last played, England are on a new threshold and have just had a great World Cup but are going backwards with this.
“That’s not to say that Wayne does not deserve a tribute but give him a presentation, don’t just give caps away which is wrong and also denies a young player a chance as well.
“I don’t agree with it at all. It should be the greatest honour and reward playing for your country but the reality is that the MLS is nowhere near the same level as the Premier League.
“Wayne Rooney finished with England, Gareth Southgate moved on and I don’t agree with this at all. To actually give him a game in what is a proper England international is completely wrong, in my opinion.”
England boss Southgate will name Rooney in his squad on Thursday for the USA game and crunch Nations League international with Croatia three days later.
Rooney will not be captain but will train with the squad, come on as a late substitute against the USA and the proceeds will go towards his charity with the game now being called The Wayne Rooney Foundation International.
But as Shilton points out, it is in danger of devaluing the importance of caps and Premier League managers can rightly argue that if the FA are no longer taking friendlies seriously then why should they.
It has caused a backlash despite Rooney claiming it will be a “particularly special” moment for him to be invited back to Wembley for a glorious England farewell.
Ex-Manchester United star Rooney, now at DC United, said: “I am truly humbled and hugely excited to play for England at Wembley again. I would like to thank Gareth Southgate and The FA for inviting me back and helping to support my Foundation in the process.
“Playing for England was the greatest honour of my career – so winning my 120th, and final, cap will be a particularly special moment for me. It’s fitting that the match will be against the USA and I hope that both sets of fans enjoy the game.
“I have been hugely impressed with the progress of this young England team. I hope that whilst I am with the squad I can pass on some of my experience. Trying to help others is a particular focus of mine now through my Foundation.
“I was lucky to enjoy a long and successful career with a great many people helping me to achieve my dreams. The Foundation allows me to give something back to four charities, all of whom do hugely important work.”
Southgate said: “The connection between The FA and former England players is something that has always been very important to me.
“Acknowledging the Three Lions legacy has been a major part of our journey with this current group of young players and Wayne Rooney is a hugely significant part of that history.
“This tribute to Wayne is a unique opportunity that is befitting of our nation’s record goal-scorer.
“We’re fortunate that circumstances have allowed us to formally acknowledge Wayne’s immense contribution to England in front of the Wembley crowd and against apt opponents given the recent impact he has made in MLS.
“We all look forward to the occasion and lending support to a number of good causes through the Wayne Rooney Foundation.”
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