Interim England boss Gareth Southgate has backed Jordan Henderson to transpose the experience of taking the Liverpool captaincy from Steven Gerrard to his newly-acquired position as Three Lions skipper.
Henderson has been handed the captain’s armband for England’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia in Ljubljanaon Tuesday after Southgate opted to axe record goalscorer Wayne Rooney from his starting XI.
Former Middlesbrough manager Southgate believes the way the 26-year-old midfielder has coped with his elevation from foot solider to Anfield general makes him the perfect candidate to replace Rooney.
“I’ve been very impressed with him,” said Southgate.
“What has stood out for me is that he’s captained a football club where he’s had to take over from one of the most iconic figures in English football.
“That will have been a difficult challenge for him but he has matured from that and shown great leadership skills with his club. He’s used to being the captain, which is also important.
“Within this group of players he has got a voice and an opinion and very clear ideas on what he thinks we need to work on. He also has good tactical understanding.
“It was not an easy decision because there are other senior players in that dressing room but, because he’s captained a big football club and is used to responsibility, it was the right decision.”
Slovenia are ranked 67th in Fifa’s official world rankings whereas England are 12th, although Southgate remains wary of the threat posed, and believes the snarl of the underdog at Euro 2016 is a lesson which needs to be heeded.
“We saw that in the summer at the European Championship [that the gap between nations is closing], every team is really well organised and really well drilled,’ added Southgate, who led the England Under-21 side to victory at the Toulon Tournament in May.
“We played a country with a small population [Iceland] but their defensive set up and organisation made them very difficult to break down. Every country has some talented players that can hurt you and you have to respect that.
“As professionals, we understand that. I accept that in the supporters’ view we should win comfortably in every game we go out and play, but the realities of that are often rather different.
[But] we want to leave here top of the group and a second away win would put us in a strong position.”