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On Monday, England’s interim manager, Gareth Southgate, held a press conference where he announced that England captain Wayne Rooney would be dropped from the starting XI for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia. In his place, Liverpool midfielder and captain Jordan Henderson will wear the armband for England.
Dropping Rooney comes as no surprise after the captain was heavily booed by the home fans in Saturday’s win over Malta.
The debate over whether Rooney should be in the starting XI has been going on all season. To be perfectly honest, it’s an incredibly silly debate. Being the captain shouldn’t guarantee you a place in the team, that should be decided on form. Right now, Rooney doesn’t deserve to start for club or country.
That doesn’t mean that Rooney should be dropped from the squad or have the captaincy stripped from him at all. Rooney still provides a lot of value to England. He’s been capped more than the next two outfield players combined. He has the ability to connect with managers, older players, and with new young players. The young players all want to learn from him, and having him around the training ground and using his experience could be vital for England both on and off the pitch.
Right now, Rooney is simply going through a rough patch in his career. He’ll rebound out of it, but until he does he’ll have to learn a different role with his team and that role is coming off the bench and making an impact.
The problem that England are currently facing isn’t that they have to drop Rooney, but rather what they do they once they’ve dropped him. England have no contingency plan for what to do after Rooney. Southgate saying that Jordan Henderson will wear the armband just goes to show that.
To put it simply, England will never win anything with Henderson leading them, let alone with Henderson in the starting XI. He’s a completely average midfielder who parlayed a good season with Sunderland into a move to Liverpool where he was declared the heir to Steven Gerrard. Since then he’s been a very overrated midfielder.
Henderson represents everything that has been wrong and is still wrong with England. He was highly touted as he broke into the first team and made a move to a bigger club where he hasn’t done anything spectacular. However, he has always been out there to the point where England now think they have a quality player on their hands when in truth, they don’t.
Henderson is essentially England’s version of Michael Bradley. Two players who at this point their names are bigger then their on field contributions. Managers look at them as leaders, stick them in the middle of the field, and then build the rest of the team around them, even though there are probably better being left on the bench. Every so often they produce a moment of magic to remind you what they’re capable of, but for the most part they are average.
At his press conference, Southgate said he chose Henderson because he’s the captain of Liverpool. He has experience being a captain and that made him the logical choice. That reasoning is ridiculous but it does underscore a bigger problem England have. If not Henderson than who else?
Harry Kane has been with the national team for just over a year, Daniel Sturridge is always injured. Gary Cahill was the vice captain under Roy Hodgson but his form has been all over the place in the past year.
Those suggestions all look toward the past England though, the version of England that fails time and time again. This time around, England need to look toward the future. They need to change things up. There have been calls to strip Rooney of the captaincy and hand it to John Stones. While that sounds ridiculous, it’s not so far off from the way England should be thinking.
In fact, England should be looking toward a younger player to be the next captain, it’s just that Stones isn’t the right young player. The player should be Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier.
Dier is a quiet player who does his job extremely well. He sits in front of the back four, staying out of the spotlight, to allow England’s attacking players to go and do what they do best. He has the ability to hit a free kick every once in a while as we saw against Russia in France last summer.
Most importantly though is that Dier grew up in Portugal. He’s the only English player that plays with a different style. More than anything else, that’s what England need.
A transition from the old English rough and tumble style that doesn’t work, into taking the style of many different countries and making them their own. Dier represents that new style, Henderson represents the old English style that failed time and time again.
Henderson can take the armband for now, England will qualify for the World Cup regardless of who their manager is. Right now, Rooney should remain captain of England, but England should be thinking of what to do when he retires. And the answer to that question should be Dier.