Wayne Rooney praises ‘fearless’ Gareth Southgate for nurturing England youth
The former England captain said Southgate's willingness to invest in youth paid off at the 2018 World Cup
Their time with the international squad only briefly crossed over, with Rooney retiring in 2017, but the 33-year-old said he could see the work that would bring such fruit in the 2018 World Cup.
“Fearless,” the player said when asked to describe Southgate. “Because a lot of the other managers didn't really give the youth the opportunity to express themselves and come into the team and have an impact. In fairness to Gareth, he's tried to do that and done that, bringing a lot of young players through. Giving them experience but also belief they can perform well and be successful for their country.
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“Of the six managers I played for, while there were a few individual young players, to bring so many through as a group and have that trust in them, he deserves a lot of credit.”
Rooney was very proud of England’s World Cup, as Southgate’s side reached the semi-finals of an international tournament for the first time since 1996.
“I thought they were excellent. First of all, the coaches got it spot on with the preparation. There was a change in formation before the tournament, and the players did more than people expected them to do.
“To go to the semi-final, it was a shame they couldn't take that next step and get to the final, but watching from a different country, I had an enormous amount of pride watching them perform so well. It was really satisfying watching them surrounded by a lot of foreign players and people, knowing that's your country doing you proud.”
“The coaches are doing a fantastic job, also. Having two training sessions, I can see the work the coaches are doing. It's fantastic. Sometimes you can have a group of talented young players who may not achieve what they want if they're not getting the right coaching. I can honestly see that they are getting the right coaching and messages, and that will really help them.”