Southgate hails his '˜leader' Rooney

England interim manager Gareth Southgate had no doubts about retaining Wayne Rooney as captain, hailing the striker as the 'outstanding leader of the group'.
Gareth SouthgateGareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate

Despite a disappointing Euro 2016, Rooney was kept in the role by previous boss Sam Allardyce and Southgate sees no reason to change the skipper now he is in charge of the national team.

“The decision to make him captain is quite simple,” Southgate said.

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“What I felt from what I have seen around St George’s, what I gleaned from talking to staff over the two years, is that he is the outstanding leader in the group.

“The most important thing at this time is leadership, on and off the field, and Wayne has provided that over the last two years.

“The way he has matured into that is really impressive. I have no doubt in my mind about keeping him in that position.”

Southgate would not be drawn on the circumstances of his predecessor’s departure but admitted his distaste for the football “industry”.

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Allardyce was removed after being caught making unguarded comments to an undercover newspaper reporter, including on the subject of third-party ownership of players.

“I have to say I’m involved in a sport that I love and an industry that at times I don’t like,” said Southgate.

“The detail of what happened last week, I’m not too au fait with. I’ve heard names mentioned and bits of information but I don’t have the detail so I don’t think I can speculate about what might or might not have happened.

“There’s lots about the industry of football that I don’t like but it’s a sport I love, representing my country was something I loved and they’re the bits I have to focus on.”

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Southgate has been placed in caretaker charge for England’s games against Malta – on Saturday – and Slovenia this month and Scotland and Spain in November, and is not yet considering the longer term.

Southgate’s first squad selection saw call-ups for Marcus Rashford, who scored a hat-trick for his Under-21s team last month, and uncapped Manchester United team-mate Jesse Lingard.

He suggested on Sunday that Rashford going to next summer’s European Under-21 Championship would still be good for the striker’s development, but joked on Monday: “That depends if I’m the Under-21s manager in the summer.”