England boss Sam Allardyce insists it was a straightforward decision to retain the status quo after confirming that Manchester United attacker Wayne Rooney will stay as Three Lions captain.
Much debate has surrounded Rooney’s future involvement in the England set-up with former captain Alan Shearer urging Rooney to consider international retirement. Allardyce, however, views Rooney’s ongoing leadership qualities as vital.
“Wayne has been an excellent captain for England and the manner in which he has fulfilled the role made it an easy decision for me to ask him to continue,” said Allardyce.
“Wayne’s record speaks for itself. He is the most senior member of the squad and he is hugely respected by his peers. All of these factors point towards him being the right choice to lead the team.”
Allardyce, meanwhile, has pointed to the backstory of Michail Antonio as a pivotal factor in the uncapped West Ham winger being handed a place in his maiden Three Lions squad to face Slovakia on Sunday.
Antonio, who has scored in two of West Ham’s three Premier League matches this term, began his career at non-league Tooting & Mitcham United before stints at Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest preceded a £7m move to the Hammers in 2015.
“The journey,” said Allardyce, referring to why he selected Antonio.
“The quality of the player that has shown through in every league he has played, the impact he had at the end of last season and the start of this, his attacking flair, his quality for final-third delivery and his goal record from a wide position.
“I think that that journey is something that deserves to be in this squad and me to have a look at as a potential player going forward. It shows how much it means if you’ve got guts, determination and desire.
Whether Antonio makes his international debut for England when they open their World Cup qualification campaign in Trnava remains to be seen, but one player who definitely will not feature is axed Everton midfielder Ross Barkley.
“We had to make some very difficult decisions, none more so than Ross Barkley,” added Allardyce. “The door is always open for Ross but at this moment I felt the squad I picked is right.”