England manager Roy Hodgson insists captain Wayne Rooney is still a major part of his Euro 2016 plans – even though his side beat World Cup holders Germany without the striker.
Manchester United forward Rooney was sidelined by a knee injury as Hodgson’s team came from two goals down to win Saturday’s friendly 3-2, with the younger generation flourishing in his absence in Berlin.
Tottenham’s 19-year-old Dele Alli was man of the match and his partnership with club-mate Harry Kane continued to develop as the striker, 22, scored the goal that started England’s comeback.
Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy increased the pressure on Rooney’s place with his first England goal but Hodgson said: “I have to repeat Wayne is our captain and he has captained the team extremely well in the past two years.
“He took us through a qualifying campaign where we had a complete success with 10 wins out out 10. It doesn’t please me too much that it is suggested now that the moment he is injured and doesn’t play he gets jettisoned in some way. He doesn’t deserve that.”
Rooney’s biggest challenge
If Hodgson keeps faith with Kane and Alli in their current positions – and bearing in mind Vardy was also on the scoresheet and Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck was back in England colours for the first time in a year after injury problems – Rooney is facing the biggest challenge to his place in more than a decade.
Hodgson insists the 30-year-old, England’s record goalscorer with 51 goals in 109 appearances, will not allow the new breed to rest on their laurels.
He said: “When he comes back and is fit again he is going to be putting enormous pressure on these players, just like these players will be putting enormous pressure on him – and that is the situation we are looking forward to.”
Alli still has to improve
Alli’s display and his partnership with Kane is emerging as a key option for Hodgson, leaving questions over where Rooney could fit in.
“Dele’s performance against France in November was a man-of-the-match performance as well,” said Hodgson.
“He was fantastic in that game and if anything it has pleased me even more that he has come out and done exactly the same again, and what is more he has done it in perhaps even more difficult circumstances.
“At the moment, all you can see with Dele is a very, very bright future. It is up to him and his club but he has got to make certain he doesn’t think ‘I am the complete and finished article’. You cannot be the complete and finished article at 19 – not if we are talking about winning tournaments.
“You need a little bit more experience and games behind you. I’m not trying to detract from his performance. We thought he was excellent from the first minute to the last. He is getting a lot of praise and I hope he enjoys it because he truly deserves it.”
Is Hodgson changing his approach?
The emergence of a crop of exciting young players, and the brand of football they produce, has led to suggestions Hodgson is altering his approach to the game.
The 68-year-old denies that is the case.
“No, not at all,” said Hodgson. “Unfortunately – and I don’t know when I got it – but at some stage I was told I’m conservative in some way and that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“I don’t have it in Italy, I don’t have it in Switzerland, just in England. I believe that is what is said. It is not true in my opinion and certainly I have never felt that way.
“I have worked for one or two teams, of course, where we have been nowhere near as good as the opposition and we have been put onto the back foot.
“But whenever I have had the team that has had the ability to take control of the game, take the initiative and take the game to the opposition, all of my teams have done that.”
Nothing to prove
That being the case, Hodgson insists he is not motivated by a desire to prove people wrong.
He added: “You can’t disprove what people say or think about you, you can only do your work and hope the work you do with the players will give some sort of reward or success.
“Then people can have their opinions. It has never bothered me at all – I haven’t started thinking ‘someone said that, I better do something different’.
“I think I have been, not quite a model of consistency throughout the 40 years, but there haven’t been many ups and downs or twists and turns.
“I believe in playing football, I believe in taking the initiative and you can only win things if you have a team who can take the game to the opposition. It is difficult to win things in the long term if you go on the back foot.”