Belfast Telegraph

Wayne Rooney still the main man for England: Southgate

World Cup qualifiers

By Robert Jones

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

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 told a press conference.

"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".

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."

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

"I've not had any chance to think of anything other than how we prepare for this week," he said. "Anything beyond that can wait (until) everybody's had time to breathe."

Southgate's first squad selection saw call-ups for Marcus Rashford 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-21 manager in the summer!

"He was outstanding for us last month, he's starting for Manchester United.

"I think you can all see his ability and the effect he's had on games, but it's his maturity around the camp - he was still the youngest in the under-21 squad.

"Jesse is a player who we were really impressed with over two years in the under-21s.

"He's now establishing in Jose Mourinho's team and that speaks volumes, and under pressure in the (2015 Under-21) European Championship I thought he was our best performer, so I think it's an exciting moment to bring him in."

Injury has, however, denied Raheem Sterling the chance to take his fine Manchester City form away with England.

The 21-year-old has responded remarkably to a tough Euro 2016 in which he called himself "the hated one", flourishing under Pep Guardiola's tutelage.

Sterling has scored five goals in 10 appearances for City this term, but he will now miss Southgate's first games in charge, with Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend named as his replacement, returning to the squad for the first time since the pre-Euro 2016 friendlies against Turkey and Australia.

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