Kevin Phillips exclusive: I would NOT start Wayne Rooney in England’s first game of Euro 2016!

Former England striker Kevin Phillips has told talkSPORT he would start Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy in the Three Lions’ first game of this summer’s European Championship, rather than Manchester United star Wayne Rooney.

The strikers have excelled for Tottenham and Leicester this term, hitting 25 and 24 Premier League goals respectively as they reside in the top two of the scoring charts.

On the other hand, Rooney has netted just seven times in the league, but he has still been tipped for a starting role with England as he is captain of Roy Hodgson’s team.

Few agree with this stance, believing the Three Lions’ best chance of success would be utilising the most in-form strikers, and Phillips told Drivetime that he too shares this viewpoint.

When asked if he’d start Kane and Vardy in the first game of the Euros, the eight-time capped forward said: “I’ve had to answer this question quite a few times, and I have to say I would.

“I’m a firm believer that we need to pick players who are bang in form going into the Euros, and in Kane and Vardy, there are no two better strikers in the Premier League at the moment.

“Obviously there’s a big argument for Rooney. But me, personally, I wouldn’t start Wayne Rooney in the first game. I watched him last night [v West Ham], and he didn’t look at it.

“So everyone will have their say, but for me if you put those two on the pitch you are guaranteed goals.”

Phillips scored 30 goals in the 1999/2000 Premier League season, ending the campaign as winner of both the Golden Boot and the European Golden Shoe.

His form for Sunderland saw him called up to the England squad for Euro 2000, but despite being the best goalscorer in Kevin Keegan’s selection, he never once played in the competition, as the Three Lions were knocked out in the group stages.

He believes taking in-form strikers is much more important than big names, and Phillips suggested that both Jermain Defoe and Andy Carroll could be good options for Hodgson to call upon this summer.

Quizzed about Defoe’s possible inclusion, the former Black Cats attacker added: “Possibly [he should be selected].

“I was listening to Sam [Allardyce]’s quotes from the last 48 hours, that if Roy needs someone who’s bang in form at the moment, who can come off the bench and get you a goal, then Jermain Defoe is certainly an option.

“But also, Andy Carroll is an option. When you look at the England squad, there isn’t someone who comes off the bench and offers that different dimension – that aerial threat.

“There are players who, if they finish the season strongly, then Roy has a bit of a dilemma.”

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