England skipper Wayne Rooney insists interim manager Gareth Southgate has a huge chance to press his claim to be named Three Lions boss on a permanent basis following the shock departure of predecessor Sam Allardyce.
Southgate has been entrusted with the England reins for the next four matches after Allardyce’s tenure was brought to a premature conclusion last week over comments made to undercover reporters posing as business representatives.
Former Middlesbrough and current England Under-21 boss Southgate begins his quest to land the post for the long term on Saturday when England host perennial whipping boys Malta in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at Wembley.
England then face Slovenia in Ljubljana on Tuesday, while a qualifier against old foes Scotland and a friendly with Spain follow next month. Rooney believes a series of victories could be mutually beneficial.
“We have a new manager in Gareth and I know it’s a big opportunity for him,” said Rooney, who believes Allardyce will “deeply regret” the circumstances which brought his downfall.
“He will bring his own way of working. We have to buy into his ways and try to take his ideas on board.
“We have to take it game by game. For him, it’s an opportunity to stake his claim but for us we have two games this week which we have to win.
“Whether Gareth or Sam, it’s two games we have to try and get six points from. If we do that, Gareth will be happy and we will be happy.”
One of Southgate’s first actions following his promotion to the England senior side’s hotseat was to reaffirm Rooney as captain, although the debate over his most effective position at this stage of his career continues to rumble.
Fuel has been added to that particular fire by his demotion to the Manchester United substitutes’ bench for their last three matches, and the constant analysis of his role has irked the 30-year-old.
“It’s a question for Gareth,” he added. “It’s getting a bit tired, the question of whether I’m going to play as a striker, in midfield or as a No10. I’ve answered that question many times and it’s the same answer. I’ll play wherever the manager wants me to play.
“I don’t pick myself, I haven’t picked myself ever and I will play to instructions. I’m sure the instructions from Gareth, whether it’s to play or not to play, are instructions I will carry out to the best of my ability.”
Centre-half Gary Cahill, meanwhile, who will win his 50th international cap should he feature in England’s next two matches, is one player whose respect Southgate will certainly command.
“He was a top player in his time,” said Cahill. “As a kid I was at Aston Villa when he was there. I’m familiar with his career and especially his career with England. He has many caps and is very patriotic. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Burnley’s former Manchester United centre-half Michael Keane was yesterday handed his first England call-up after injury forced Stoke defender Glen Johnson’s withdrawal from the squad.