Caretaker boss Gareth Southgate has confirmed that captain Wayne Rooney and winger Theo Walcott will start for England against Malta.
But the former under-21s boss would not give away the rest of the team as he prepares to take charge of his first national team game in the World Cup qualifier at Wembley.
Rooney will captain the side, though Southgate would not say whether the Manchester United man will start in attack or midfield.
“Yes he will (start). No I can’t (confirm his position),” Southgate told a press conference in St Albans, before also revealing Walcott, who was sat beside him, would start.
“I know everybody is keen to know the team early. The players are aware of the team. I’m sure the team will leak out, I know that’s what happens, but I don’t see the point of giving the opposition the advantage of knowing our team.”
When pressed on what Rooney could offer if he were to play in midfield, Southgate added: “Well I think his ability to control games, his experience.
“I think this is a game where we will have a lot of the ball. In the past few matches Malta have had 35, 40 per cent of the ball so I expect us to control the game and we’re going to have to show patience.
“I want us to be brave with the ball. One of the messages I wanted to get across to the players this week was I want to see an England team that are brave in possession and prepared to take chances, prepared to risk in one v one situations.”
A new chance
Arsenal winger Walcott, who at the age of 17 made his England debut against Hungary over a decade ago, echoed Southgate’s call for the Three Lions to express themselves against Malta.
The 44-cap player said: “It’s a completely new bunch of players, who’ve got a lot more experience following the disappointment of the Euros, and we’re wanting to put that right.
“Seeing how everyone is around the place and how we’ve trained… there’s no reason why we can’t do better.
“Having that support behind us, we’re going to just go for it and be brave.
“You do the things that get you to play for England in the first place. You want the right attributes to come out so you can express yourself in games and if we can do that, it’ll bode well for the future.”
When asked if Southgate had a “nasty streak”, the 27-year-old laughed, before adding: “We haven’t really seen it yet!
“As long as we perform well hopefully we won’t see it, but if everyone’s not completely ready then that side of us will have to come out.
“It comes from the players as well. There are a lot of leaders in that dressing room and if someone’s not doing something right then we won’t be afraid to tell them.
“It’s important that if you see something on the pitch that isn’t working, you take note and try and change it yourself if you can.”
Walcott is in fine form, having scored four times in his last four games for Arsenal, and is eager to keep that going in an England shirt.
He said: “I’m not going to dwell on what I’ve done in the past. It’s all about the next game. I’ve set myself standards this year which I don’t want to drop and I won’t drop them cos that’s just the frame of mind I’m in.”