Wayne Rooney should not lose any sleep over his selection for Euro 2016, according to England manager Roy Hodgson.
Hodgson ridiculed the debate surrounding the England captain’s importance to the national team with the emergence of fellow strikers Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane, who have both outshone Rooney in the scoring stakes this season.
Rooney is also coming off a two-month knee injury, but Hodgson insisted as long as he is fit, the Manchester United captain remains a key part of his plans.
“More than that would have to happen before I said ‘I am going to ditch Wayne Rooney now after two years of captaining the team, 20-odd games where he has been an important part of our group’,” Hodgson explained.
“I don’t see any reason why his position in the team or as captain, or in the group, put it that way, should be questioned.”
But while Hodgson laughed off suggestions Rooney would not make the squad, he said debating his role in the first team was another matter.
“Of course, with the competition that is coming for the places where he plays – I do understand there’s questions about ‘well, should he be the one playing or should another?’ That’s another matter altogether,” Hodgson said.
“But I don’t understand why it would be even advisable to leave him out of the squad when he has done such a good job captaining these last two years.
“I think he merits a place there amongst the 23.”
The England manager also reiterated the importance of Rooney’s experience.
“He has got one great advantage over everybody and that’s his record of caps, achievement [109 caps and 51 goals],” Hodgson said.
“Even if he never said a word, even if he was a taciturn type or someone who didn’t really want to take onboard the duties of a captain, that alone would gain him such an enormous respect or power and kudos with the group.
“As it happens, he also has worked very hard at the other side, if you like, of being an England captain: needing to stand up, needing to lead from the front, needing to be the first one into a press conference if things haven’t gone well and stand up for the team or speak for the team.”