England national team head coach Gareth Southgate explained his decision to drop team captain Wayne Rooney and replace him with Tottenham’s Eric Dier going into the World Cup 2018 qualification clash against Slovenia.
Southgate revealed that the decision was straightforward and that it was based solely on tactical reasons, not on Rooney’s current form which has come under attack from sections of the press and fans.
In fact Southgate went as far to state that he was actually impressed with Rooney’s display on Saturday against Malta and that he carried out what was required of him.
“It’s very straightforward,” Southgate was quoted as saying by the FA.
“We’ve looked at Slovenia and the way they play, and from when I looked at that midway through last week I knew in my mind the profile of the midfield we wanted to play and what was needed from this game.
“In no way is it a reflection on Wayne’s performance on Saturday – in fact, we were very pleased with what he did. We knew we’d have a lot of the ball, he dictated the game and played with great tactical discipline.”
Southgate also underlined that it was a very difficult decision to drop Rooney but that he feels it was the right call.
“Of course, it’s not an easy decision to take because of the respect I have for him as a player, as a person and as a captain of this team. We felt it was the right decision to go with the team that we’re starting with,” he added.
Southgate revealed that Rooney took the decision as a professional and also made it clear that the Manchester United star is still the captain of the team going forwards.
“Immediately not only did he accept the news with great professionalism but was also very keen to come and speak today. I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea because I don’t want to subject him to being in the spotlight any more than he already is but, on reflection, I think it was a great opportunity for him to talk about his pride of playing for his country and to let you know exactly how he feels about it,” he added.
“He’s still captain of this team while I’m in charge. Everything I’ve seen this week has only improved the feeling of how impressive he’s been as a leader of this group.”
England beat Malta 2-0 over the weekend and will take on Slovenia on Wednesday in the third of their World Cup 2018 qualification group stage games. The Three Lions are currently first in Group F on six points after winning both their first two games.
Rooney started against Malta on Saturday but he was jeered by sections of the fans at Wembley for his performance on the night. The 30-year-old has a total of 53 goals in 116 caps for the England national team and is one of the most experienced players in the current squad.