‘Hugely influential’ Rooney will remain England skipper

Date published: Wednesday 26th October 2016 10:13

Gareth Southgate: Keeps an eye on Wayne Rooney

Gareth Southgate: Keeps an eye on Wayne Rooney

Gareth Southgate has hinted he will continue to pick Wayne Rooney for England even if the striker remains on the Manchester United bench.

The interim manager has issued his captain another show of faith ahead of his next squad announcement in November.

Rooney missed United’s 4-0 defeat at Chelsea on Sunday through injury and has not started any of their last four Premier League matches having scored just once for club and country this season. It is unknown if he will return to face Manchester City in the EFL Cup on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old was also left on the bench by Southgate for the World Cup qualifying draw in Slovenia this month.

Southgate’s initial four-game spell in charge ends with a World Cup qualifier against Scotland and friendly with Spain in November and dropping England’s record 53-goal top scorer for those games does not even feature in his thinking.

“He’s the England captain and although he didn’t start in Slovenia, to me he is a hugely influential person in that group and that won’t change,” he told Press Association Sport.

“Let’s see what that scenario is but I thought his leadership qualities in the 10 days with us shone through. I hadn’t been able to see that first hand and it was hugely impressive.

“I could see how he’s held in the eyes of the rest of the players and the positive influence he has in that environment. If that wasn’t the case I wouldn’t say those things. That’s as it was.

“I haven’t spoken to him since the camp but I’m always conscious players are back into a run of fixtures with their clubs, but I will pick up with him and the others later.”

Rooney has scored just four goals in his last 32 games for United and England, although he has played in a deeper midfield role for many of them.

His last Premier League start came over a month ago at Watford. Rooney has continually insisted he will not retire from international duty until after the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

While Rooney is unlikely to be axed, Southgate is prepared to make his mark on the squad having already handed a recall to Glen Johnson last time before the Stoke defender pulled out injured.

Southampton’s uncapped Charlie Austin has been tipped for a recall after scoring seven goals in all competitions, four in the Premier League, this term.

Austin’s only call-up came in May 2015, where he failed to feature against the Republic of Ireland or Slovenia, but Southgate offered hope to the striker and those who have previously missed out, including Leicester’s Danny Simpson.

“We have a pool of English-eligible players and we have to make sure we’re up to speed on all of them, how they are playing, form and long-term potential as well,” said Southgate, who was talking during a visit to Sheffield for the Football Association’s new Parklife scheme which is launched on Wednesday.

“That’s how we viewed it with the under-21s and the seniors are no different. You are always balancing those ideas in your mind.

“I don’t think we can rule anyone out because the pool of players has, over the last few years, been diminishing. Of those players, some have come to the point where they don’t want to play any more – James Milner for example.
“That takes some numbers off the percentages. As quickly as possible I have to be up to speed on all of those players.”

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