Gareth Southgate: England Door 'Still Open' for Wayne Rooney to Play in 2018 World Cup
Despite Wayne Rooney announcing his retirement from international football on Wednesday, England boss Gareth Southgate has revealed the Everton striker could be invited out of retirement to play for the Three Lions, should they qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Southgate has refused to rule the former England captain out of playing for England again, should he maintain his good form for Everton throughout the course of the season.
"I don’t see why you ever shut the door on anything," the England boss said. "I suppose we would have to see where he was at, where the squad was at, where everything else was at. But it would be foolish to say ‘no’ because anything is possible.
"A part of that question should go to Wayne because you have to respect his decision and the thinking behind it. But have I seen players change their minds? Yes, I think we all have."
Rooney announced his retirement from international football after an impressive career for the Three Lions, earning 119 caps and scoring 53 goals for his country on the world stage, becoming England's all-time top scorer in the process.
In the absence of Rooney, who has been a mainstay within the England setup since 2004, Southgate has called upon his other players to step up and take responsibility for their performances.
"Wayne has been somebody it may have been easy for the other players to hide behind because he was always the one who has carried the burden. I think that’s been unfair on him. Now everybody has the chance to take the mantle.
"Since Steven [Gerrard] retired, Wayne has probably had to carry that on his own. Even prior to that, he was carrying a lot of responsibility. He has done that tremendously well but now others have to grasp that initiative and responsibility. It is an opportunity for other people now.
"If we are gong to be an outstanding team we need players who are going to step up in the big moments and realise, every time they play for England, they have the chance to be involved in an iconic moment, a historic performance, and that they have that choice every time they go on the field. I want to give them their heads a bit and see what might be possible."
England currently stand in pole position for World Cup qualification in Group E, undefeated with four wins and two draws to their name.
Their next matches in their bid for qualification come against Malta on September 1st and Slovakia on September 4th, with the latter trailing England by only two points in the table.