Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Next England Captain

There is much speculation about who might replace Steven Gerrard as the England captain, assuming that the Liverpool man either retires from international football or relinquishes the title of captain.
When surveying the current England squad, there is not exactly an abundance of players with the requisite combination of leadership qualities, experience and diplomatic skills. There are one or two who may become strong candidates in the future (Ross Barkley springs to mind in this regard), but few whose current claims are too compelling.

Once the post World Cup "shake-out" has been concluded, Wayne Rooney is likely to be by far the most senior member of the set-up, both in terms of caps and honours won. He also satisfies another criterion, in that he is (despite some protestations to the contrary), pretty much assured of his place in the starting line-up.

To some people, Rooney might not seem like captaincy material, especially for the national team. So what are the alternative options? Well, Joe Hart is the undisputed first choice in his position, he has now accumulated considerable experience with England and at club level, and he has a pretty good public image. Although it is often opined that goalkeepers do not make ideal captains, there are some precedents. Dino Zoff made a pretty good job of it with Italy in 1982. The one counter-argument in the current context is that England, with a youthful bunch of players, lack natural leaders on the pitch, and it might be sensible to give the captaincy to someone in the heart of the action, in central defence or midfield.

Leighton Baines might have been an outside bet for the role, but his shaky performances in Brazil have not helped his cause, putting his position at left-back in potential peril. Gary Cahill has been mentioned by some, and in truth he does not have much competition for his position in the heart of the defence, but does he have the galvanising personality of the great captains of the past? 

In the absence of any other blindingly obvious choices, I would be inclined to give the armband to Rooney at the beginning of the Euro 2016 qualifiers, and see how he fares. Who knows, the responsibility might bring out the best in him?  If the team does well, and his own playing form is good, then there would be no reason to change the situation. As is often observed, the captain in football is less important in an overall tactical sense than in many other team sports, but his effect can often go beyond the symbolic, and help to motivate and inspire those under him.

It will be fascinating to see how Roy Hodgson resolves this matter....

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