BURTON-ON-TRENT, United Kingdom, Oct 3- Interim England manager Gareth Southgate has hailed Wayne Rooney as the “outstanding leader” in the national team and said he never doubted selecting him as captain for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia.
Southgate, who was handed the reins as England manager on a temporary basis last week following the departure of Sam Allardyce, selected Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard in his first squad, alongside 32-year-old Stoke City defender Glen Johnson.
“The decision to make him captain is quite simple,” Southgate said at Monday’s press conference.
“What I’ve seen is he’s the outstanding leader in that group.
“In a period of change the most important thing is leadership, and there was no doubt in my mind about keeping him in that position.
“We can’t just have one leader, we’ve got to have a team full of them. The team I played in at Euro 96 had seven club captains. Wayne bears a lot of the burden for this team – too much at times – and I think it is a moment for everyone to pull together.”Rooney’s role at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho has come under question after being benched for the last three games.
However, Southgate remains adamant the 30-year-old has an important role to play for England moving forward.
“He was an incredible emergence on the scene when I was still in the England squad,” said Southgate.”I’ve got to say, without being disrespectful, the character I saw in front of me last week was a stark contrast.
“The way he’s matured, his understanding of what’s needed – I couldn’t have been more impressed.”
Southgate has been appointed as England manager for the next four games, with a view to potentially sealing the job on a permanent basis if positive results follow.
His stint includes three World Cup qualifiers, one of which is against Scotland, and a friendly against Spain at the end of November.
“The opportunity to do this is something no one will be able to take away from me, and I’m excited by the challenge,” he added.
“In my view it’s a wonderful job to have for whatever period of time.
“The workings of the last week have been almost identical to running the U21s. Yes, the profile is greater and the players a bit older, but if I was comparing it to taking over at Middlesbrough when everything was new, this has been far, far calmer.
“I’ve been able to look forward to it with a lot more excitement.”
-By Sky Sports–