Remembering Wayne Rooney’s First England XI

Wayne Rooney’s long and illustrious England career has come to an end with the country’s leading goalscorer announcing his retirement from the international stage.

The born and bred Merseysider made his debut on the 12th of February 2003 coming off the bench in a farcical friendly against Australia that saw then England manager Sven Goran Eriksson make eleven changes at half-time.

For the sake of not writing about 22 players, we are going to focus on the eleven from his first start.

At the tender age of 17 years and 160 days old, Rooney forced his way into a starting lineup consisting of some of the most talented footballers England has ever produced. Rooney kicked off for the first time with Michael Owen in a European Qualifier against Turkey, sparking a love affair with the national side that would last well over a decade.

Here’s a reminder of Rooney’s team mates on that night at the Stadium of Light.

Goalkeeper- David James

The 6 ft 4″ stopper made 53 appearances for the Three Lions in a topsy-turvy international career. James initially came into the national squad to serve as an understudy to David Seaman but got his chance when Seaman was dropped in 2002.

James was the oldest player at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and was in goal, apparently, for Germany’s round of 16 demolition of England.

Kept a clean sheet on the night in question but that might have something to do with the defense that stood in front of him.

Left Back- Wayne Bridge

Wayne Bridge was always a talented defender but struggled to establish himself as a nailed on starter for the national side, competing with Ashley Cole for most of his career.

The Southampton born Bridge made 36 appearances for England over a period of seven years, scoring one goal. He called time on his international career after an almighty fall out with England teammate John Terry, following allegations that the center back had been illegally tapping up Bridge’s significant other, to put it eloquently.

Still, he formed one-quarter of a pretty formidable defense to keep Turkey out that night.

Centre Back- Sol Campbell

Sol Campbell was always a bit of a controversial figure but one thing that could not be questioned was Campbell’s ability. The surly defender was widely considered the best center back in the world at his peak and with good reason.

Judas, as he was known by some in the footballing fraternity for some unknown reason, pulled on the England shirt 73 times, playing in six consecutive international tournaments for The Three Lions from Euro 96 to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

After being told he shan’t be needed at the 2010 World Cup, Campbell’s international career was at an end.

Center Back- Rio Ferdinand

Ferdinand was the definition of a no nonsense defender. Under the tutelage of the great Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Ferdinand grew into one of the best defenders in the world.

He was capped for England 81 times, a number that could well have been higher had it not been for an inconvenient eight-month ban for failing to attend a drug test.

*insert bewildered emoji here*

All the same, he had a rather successful career… He has five more of those medals stored in a drawer somewhere.

Right Back- Gary Neville

A member of the famous Class of ’92, Neville made his debut in an England shirt way back in 1995. He was capped 85 times in a career spanning nearly 15 years.

It seems though, that Neville wasn’t a fan of national pride, patriotism and all that, revealing in his autobiography that, “at times, he had reflected on his international career and thought sometimes that it was ‘a massive waste of time’, and that success with United was ‘always the most important thing’.”

That’s the spirit, Gary.


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He’s apparently some kind of big deal on television nowadays anyway.

Midfield- Paul Scholes

One of two ginger members of the Class of 92, Scholes accumulated 66 caps for the Three Lions, scoring 14 goals and playing in two world cups before falling behind Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the central midfield role pecking order.

He quit international football citing a desire to spend more time with his family, while at the same time stating that his Manchester United career was more important to him.

Sensing a trend here.

Midfield- Steven Gerrard

The long serving Liverpool player made a staggering 114 England appearances over a fourteen year period, captaining the side at the 2014 World Cup, and is the fourth most capped England player of all time.

Sadly, he could never consistently recreate his Liverpool form in the England shirt, and could only lead the national side to a limp and quite frankly pointless effort in his final major tournament in Brazil.

Here is a lovely picture of Gerrard and Rooney though.

Congratulations to @waynerooney . Incredible achievement ⚽️ top player 👍

A post shared by Steven Gerrard (@stevengerrard) on

Roo’s just made a joke about how their long England careers involved the winning of zero trophies between them. Banter.

Midfield- David Beckham

In amongst all the death threats and burning effigies after the 1998 World Cup elimination, Beckham actually ended up making quite a good fist of his England career.

Beckham was the first England player to score in three separate World Cups, wearing the armband 58 times before stepping down as captain after the 2006 World Cup.

Beckham scored some famous goals for England and always wore his heart on his sleeve, proving doubters of his commitment to the national cause wrong on countless occasions.

He is the third most capped England player of all time with 115 appearances and is one of the most well-known faces and names in the world. Here is doing *that* free kick against Greece, just because we can.

Good on you Becks!

Midfield- Nicky Butt

In spite of a rather unfortunate name, Nicky Butt enjoyed a career that would be the envy of many a footballer. He was even named England’s best player at the 2002 World Cup by some chap called Pele.

However, he was never really more than a backup player in the English set up, appearing 39 times in an England shirt.

Hopefully, his 6 Premier League winners medals, 3 FA Cups and a Champions League triumph will be enough to soften the blow of an England career that never really panned out. Poor chap.

Striker- Michael Owen

A former Balon d’Or winner, Owen was the golden boy of English football in the years leading up to Rooney’s emergence.

He played 89 times for England scoring forty valuable goals. However, a string of injuries that resulted in heaps of time on the sidelines, saw Owen’s international career tail off somewhat.

Owen is now famous for being the reason behind countless football fans watching games with the telly on mute or choosing alternate language commentary.

While his commentary might cause a few illnesses, what can’t be called into question is the fact that he was quite the talented fellow in his day.

Striker- Wayne Rooney

The nations most capped outfield player and the nations leading goalscorer, not much else needs to be written about Wayne Rooney and his England career, the numbers speak for themselves.

A true servant of the nation, Rooney’s retirement from the national fold is the end of an era and he will be fondly remembered.

Cheers Wayne!

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