Friday 23 February 2018

FA not planning to sack England backroom staff over Wayne Rooney drinking session

England's Wayne Rooney
England's Wayne Rooney

Ian Herbert

The Football Association are not planning to dismiss members of Gareth Southgate’s coaching staff after images were taken of them with Wayne Rooney during a drinking session, 24 hours after the 3-0 win over Scotland.

Backroom staff do appear to have been present with Rooney at a wedding part at the team base and though it is yet to be established whether they, too, were drinking, the governing body’s chief executive Martin Glenn has taken a dim view. “Why on earth would you be doing that given there is a team agreement around alcohol consumption during camp?” he said. “There [will] be questions asked for sure.”

But the FA’s approach is to ascertain the facts about last Saturday night at the Grove Hotel team base in Hertfordshire and to make them part of the FA debrief which takes place next week at St George’s Park – rather than play “judge and jury” and make this a full-blown investigation. When the full facts are known, new rules will be put in place governing the way that players spend their spare time during future England internationals.

The controversy surrounding Rooney’s conduct entered a third day on Thursday when images were published by The Sun of the Manchester United forward playing a piano on the evening in question, seemingly with as many as five members of the coaching and support staff grouped around it, plus Everton defender Phil Jagielka in attendance. Though Rooney’s piano-playing was said to be poor, there was no photographic evidence of him taking a drink to the musical instrument - or of any of the others drinking while he played.

The FA - whose communications director Amanda Docherty has left the organisation after 11 months having not found it the role she anticipated - has been trying to keep the episode in perspective. The governing body have been keen to emphasise that their inquiries do not amount to an “investigation”, though Glenn did use that word when door-stepped by Sky Sports on Thursday. Rooney has issued an apology for the impression created by the photographs.

“Don't make a drama out of it. We are having a proper investigation into what went on. It's disappointing,” Glenn said. “It's appropriate that he apologised. It doesn't set a great tone for the England captain but I don't want to over-dramatise it either. 'Were there FA staff involved?’ We're establishing the facts. We're talking to people who were there to find out if anybody from the backroom staff was involved.”

Glenn also confirmed on Thursday that Southgate had informed him that he wanted the manager’s role permanently. Though it has been an open secret for the past two weeks that he is the only contender and no others are being pursued, it is likely to be two weeks before his appointment is confirmed.

Southgate said on Friday that there were “lots of changes we made to routines” under his interim management, but the rules governing players’ spare time are understood not to have changed since Roy Hodgson left the national team in July. Since the players had been instrumental in establishing the parameters for their spare time, there was a desire to stick with them out of respect to the squad. In the past, the squad would be sent back to their families if there was a four-day break between games but the additional sports science introduced to aid recovery now means that they remain together.

(© Independent News Service)

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