Wayne Rooney retains the England captaincy as Sam Allardyce encourages him to follow Jay Jay Okocha's example
Sam Allardyce has told Wayne Rooney to continue in his role as England captain – by following the leadership blueprint of Jay Jay Okocha.
Manchester United forward Rooney, who succeeded Steven Gerrard as England captain following the 2014 World Cup, retains the armband following Allardyce’s appointment as Roy Hodgson’s successor as manager.
The 30-year-old will lead Allardyce’s team in the opening World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in Trnava on Sunday, with Allardyce admitting that Nigerian midfielder Okocha, who captained his Bolton side, has set the bar high for Rooney to emulate as his best skipper.
“On and off the field, Jay Jay was the captain you looked for,” Allardyce said. “In a multi-national side from all over the world, he could speak four different languages and communicate very well with some of the players who couldn’t speak quite as good English.
“He sorted the odd scuffle out in the dressing room, talked to the players about how we had to go out and win. He’d take the manager’s instructions and apply them in the right way.
“Then there was outstanding ability on the field, leading by example and showing everybody he wasn’t a mercenary which was suggested in the beginning, that he’d only come for the money.”
Rooney’s retention in the role, widely anticipated, ensures continuity for a player who broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time England goal-scoring record during the qualification campaign for Euro 2016.
With 115 caps, Rooney is likely to surpass Peter Shilton’s all-time appearance record in the run-up to Russia 2018 and Allardyce insists that sticking with the player as captain was an “easy” choice.
“Wayne has been an excellent captain for England and the manner in which he has fulfilled the role made it an easy decision for me to ask him to continue,” he said.
“Wayne’s record speaks for itself, he is the most senior member of the squad and he is hugely respected by his peers.
“All of these factors point towards him being the right choice to lead the team.”
Allardyce admits he will expect Rooney to become his voice in the pitch and a player prepared to make changes during the game if required.
“You would hope the captain would make a decision on the pitch if he felt it needed to,” he said.
“For me, that’s the captain’s role.
“It’s a big responsibility at club level, and even more so at international level. First and foremost, lead by example.
“It’s all about the personality. Can you handle the responsibility of being captain?
“We’ve seen some fabulous players in cricket who couldn’t handle the captaincy. That’s the last thing you want to do, name a captain and they be so uncomfortable with it their performance is diminished.
“But I think Wayne has done the job very well. I think he’s enjoyed the responsibility.”