Saturday 23 September 2017

Rooney dropped as Southgate sets out stall as England boss

Two Manchester United fans in front of a picture of out-of-favour Wayne Rooney outside Old Trafford last night. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters
Two Manchester United fans in front of a picture of out-of-favour Wayne Rooney outside Old Trafford last night. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters

Miguel Delaney

If anyone still felt Gareth Southgate was going to be a mere place-holder as England manager, or the company-man conservative choice, his approach to Wayne Rooney and the captaincy should banish any such notions.

The 46-year-old did not just leave England's record goalscorer out of his squad for next week's friendly away to Germany and the home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, but refused to offer much in the way of conciliatory words about what could be done to get back in, while pointedly highlighting the need to look to the future by stating "the need for others to step forward".

Southgate also downplayed the much-vaunted importance of the captaincy. Rooney's omission is all the more pointed because England are missing the injured Harry Kane.

And, although the Manchester United star has been struggling for fitness himself, Southgate confirmed it was his lack of playing time in the Premier League that had influenced the decision. Rooney's future at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho is increasingly doubtful and, having turned down a move to the Chinese Super League at the end of February, he is now increasingly expected to leave at the end of the season.

Southgate's decision will likely further influence that, since Rooney is known to greatly want to sign off his England career with the 2018 World Cup.

The manager also indicated how the United player is mainly considered a playmaker, but that he couldn't be picked there right now ahead of either Dele Alli or Adam Lallana given their form.

It is further proof that Southgate will genuinely break from old traditions, and not be guided by past reputation.

"We have to look at Wayne as a number 10, which is his predominant role," Southgate said.

"In the last two games we've played Dele there, we've played Adam Lallana there. Both are playing very well, scoring and assisting for their clubs.

"Ross Barkley has also been playing very well for his club. So there's competition. I can't dress that up any other way.

"Wayne is not ruled out for the weekend. But there is also a need for others to step forward. We have this thing about 'an England captain', but really the captain is the person who is captain in the next game."

Indulge

It is becoming increasingly clear Southgate will no longer indulge those not getting regular football just because they are big names, as he wants to play a more modern style of football.

"The physical part of how we play is quite crucial. If I look towards longer-term tournaments, being physically able to play games in a short period of time is going to be a critical factor.

"We want to press, I want a team with a lot of energy, so if you are a bit short of match fitness with your club, to make that jump internationally is going to be a tough call because generally (international level) takes more energy.

"The week can take more out of you. If you're not getting those minutes regularly for your club it's harder to hit that level."

Theo Walcott has also been left out, while Jermain Defoe has been recalled from the international wilderness, having last played for his country in November 2013.

Former England manager Roy Hodgson overlooked Defoe because of his age and Southgate believes the 34-year-old, who has 19 international goals, is eager to prove people wrong.

"We have got injuries in the forward area and it was important not to look at somebody's age and dismiss them from your thinking," said Southgate.

"Jermain's goalscoring record year after year is phenomenal, but, in particular, this season, in a team that isn't creating as many chances as other teams, his strike rate is outstanding.

"You get young players with a point to prove and older players with a point to prove, and he still thinks that. He warrants the call-up." (© Independent News Service)

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