England captain Wayne Rooney says he “understands and respects” Gareth Southgate’s decision to drop him and accepts he is no longer the first name on the team sheet. Rooney, the country’s all-time leading scorer, will hand the skipper’s armband to Jordan Henderson for Tuesday night’s World Cup Qualifier in Slovenia and be replaced in midfield by Eric Dier. With conflict and indecision over his best position, the 30-year-old has also been dropped to the bench by Jose Mourinho at Manchester United and Rooney admits he is in a “difficult” period in his career. “I’ve played 13 years non-stop for England and given everything, and the time comes when you are not the first name on the team sheet,” he said. “It is a chance for other players. I’m not denying my game in a difficult period. I’ve been on the bench the last few games for Manchester United but that’s part of football.
“Of course you want to play but I understand and respect the Gareth Southgate’s decision, and I’ll support the players 100 per cent, and try to help them get three points tomorrow. I’ll be ready to come off the bench if needed. “I show great pride in playing for my country, whether that’s from the start or from the bench. Of course you want to be on the pitch, but my role as captain won’t change off the pitch.” Rooney was booed by a small minority of the home fans during Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Malta but says he did not notice it and remains fully committed to his international career. “To be honest I wasn’t aware of it,” he said. “I think football nowadays, that’s part of the game, but I wasn’t aware of it on the pitch. I’ve nothing really to say on it. “I think people are entitled to their opinions but I have said many times the ones I listen to are coaches, team-mates and those close to me. It’s not something I’m too fussed about.” Despite being England’s record goal-scorer, Rooney has been utilised in midfield of late, including by Southgate on Saturday, prompting much discussion about his best position. Rooney implied the debate was of no concern to him, adding: “I’m used to playing different positions, sometimes three or four per game. It doesn’t have any impact on me. “It’s down to the manager, whether it’s to use my experience and see the game out or grab a goal. It will be down to him on the night.”