England interim manager Gareth Southgate is praising captain Wayne Rooney for his leadership qualities and his maturity.
Southgate, normally the England U21 manager, was appointed interim manager after the departure of Sam Allardyce last week. Southgate kept Rooney as the team captain as they go up against Malta and Slovenia in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
“The decision to make him captain is quite simple,” Southgate said.
“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.”
Despite Rooney’s role at Manchester United being a bit unclear, with the captain starting on the bench the last couple of games, Southgate is confident he still has a lot to offer in the England shirt.
“He was an incredible emergence on the scene when I was still in the England squad,” Southgate said.
“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.”