John Stones says under-fire Wayne Rooney remains key for England in this period of change for the national team and their captain.
Never before has the Manchester United skipper faced so much scrutiny, not only over his place in the starting line-up but his position within it.
Rooney this week rejected the suggestion he is not only past his prime but past it altogether, with team-mates and staff rallying around the captain.
Old Trafford team mate Chris Smalling believes he remains the “main man” for club and country despite being dropped at United, while interim England boss Gareth Southgate swiftly confirmed Rooney would remain captain during his four-match stint.
Stones, meanwhile, said experience like Rooney’s is “massive” in the wake of Sam Allardyce’s abrupt and ignominious exit.
“Yeah, definitely,” the centre-back said when asked if Rooney was England’s key man.
“He has been over the years. Wayne’s always fully focused and, as I say, a key player.”
England are looking to follow up the 1-0 World Cup victory in Slovakia by winning in Slovenia after Saturday’s home clash with Malta.
Rooney recently announced that it would be the final tournament of his record-breaking international career, with Stones among those mentioned as a possible replacement as captain.
“I don’t really think about it too much,” the Man City star said.