Roy Hodgson admits it would take an “awful lot” for Manchester United star Wayne Rooney to be left out of the England team.
The 30-year-old’s place is being debated like never before, due to the forward’s knee injury towards the end of a tough campaign in which other attackers are impressing.
The fact Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane’s fine form continued in last month’s friendlies against Germany and Holland means the pressure on Rooney has only increased as Euro 2016 edges closer.
The pair are seen to represent positivity and adventure at a time when England’s record goalscorer perhaps represents caution – the kind of prudence Hodgson has often been saddled with, not that he cares one iota.
The Three Lions boss emphasised there are no thoughts “at the moment of jettisoning Wayne Rooney” – and certainly not because some may see him as cautious.
“I think I’ve said now on several occasions that this is a 23-man squad: three goalkeepers and 20 outfield players,” Hodgson said. “It would take a lot before I say to Wayne Rooney after his captaincy over two years, after 19 games and two defeats, that because I am being pushed to make a brave, bold decision and show what a fantastic, forward-thinking and adventurous coach I am, ‘I am leaving you out the team’. It would take an awful lot.
“But, of course, Wayne Rooney has got to get fit, got to get playing and when Wayne Rooney gets in the squad he has got to get in front of other players again because he would not expect me to just give him a position in the team on sentiment or on his past record or the fact that he’s the captain of the team.
“He will expect me to give him a position in the team because he shows he is better than the others.”