"Earn your place Wazza" says England boss Gareth Southgate
Wayne Rooney's hopes of leading England to the 2018 World Cup are in doubt after manager Gareth Southgate warned his place in the squad, as well as his captaincy, were no longer guaranteed. 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.
Southgate left Rooney, 31, out of an expanded, and much-changed, 26-man squad to face Germany and Lithuania, despite admitting he could be fit enough to play for Manchester United this weekend.
Southgate made the bold call to drop the country's record goal scorer, and captain since 2014, while still in interim charge against Slovenia and has now suggested his involvement will be decided on a game-by-game basis.
In an interview with ESPN, he said
“We have this thing about 'an England captain' but really the captain is the person that is captain in the next game, isn't it? I've talked with Wayne and I think there's a chance he's fit for the weekend, but the injury, coupled with the fact he's not had a lot of game time recently and others have, determined my decision.
Always the danger in any sport with naming a 'captain' is selection. We have to look at Wayne as a No. 10, which is his predominant role. In the last two games we've played Dele [Alli] there and we've played Adam Lallana there. Ross Barkley has been playing very well for his club.”
Gareth Southgate has set out the tough new terms of his England era by delivering a series of reality checks to the country’s top footballers and effectively abolishing the captaincy. 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.
If Southgate is as resilient, loyal and willing to learn at England as he was in his formative years at Palace, the country may have stumbled across the right man for the job.