Gareth Southgate revealed that Fabian Delph will captain England in the friendly against the United States at Wembley on Thursday. A lot of the attention in the build-up has been around the decision to award Wayne Rooney the chance to wave farewell to the international scene, and while England’s record-goalscorer will take the armband at some point on the night, it will be Delph who leads his country for the first time.
“Fabian is captain tomorrow night, and the players are keen that Wayne wears the number 10 and we believe that is a fitting tribute,” said Southgate. “Fabian is captaining his country for the first time and it is brilliant reward for him. He is an outstanding player and outstanding person. He is a huge leader within our group and I have really enjoyed working with him. You don’t give the England captaincy to someone unless you really think they can carry it and he has those outstanding attributes. He was one of the big reasons we were successful (in the summer).”
Manchester City midfielder Delph confirmed that he would hand the armband over to Rooney when he makes his 120th and final international appearance. He said: “When I first came into the England set-up, Wayne was captain and welcomed me and made me feel at home. As soon as he comes on tomorrow, I will be giving him that armband back. We will give him a guard of honour. It will be a huge night for Wayne and we want to make it special for him.”
Southgate again defended the decision to award Rooney a farewell at Wembley just three days before a crunch Nations League fixture against Croatia, and claimed it will not affect their preparations. “I think it is fitting and having seen him in training, it won’t change the quality of what we are trying to do, but we have to balance it with trying to get some of the younger players some time ahead of Sunday (when they play Croatia),” he said. “It is very important to all of us that he gets the right sort of send off. There is enormous respect in this team for all ex-players, and they want to make it really positive for Wayne and his family.”
Rooney’s call-up has received a mixed reception, but Southgate added: “Our supporters are well aware of the contribution Wayne has made to England and that he is our record goalscorer, which is an incredible achievement. It is a very special night for him and I know there are many supporters who want to pay thanks.”