Tactical discipline key for Southgate

England interim manager Gareth Southgate giving a press conference ahead of England's World Cup qualifier against Malta. He believes that his captain Wayne Rooney can play in a number of different positions rather than solely as a striker.
England interim manager Gareth Southgate giving a press conference ahead of England's World Cup qualifier against Malta. He believes that his captain Wayne Rooney can play in a number of different positions rather than solely as a striker.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

England caretaker boss disagrees with Allardyce and Mourinho over Rooney's role

LONDON • Gareth Southgate began his new position in charge of the England football side by insisting he was not "too nice" for the role and making it clear Wayne Rooney would not be given the same freedom that Sam Allardyce had promised the national team captain.

The 46-year-old warned Rooney that he must show "clear tactical and positional discipline" if he is to establish himself as a permanent fixture in his team.

The interim manager also put himself at odds with Jose Mourinho by expressing the belief that the England captain can play in a number of different positions rather than being used solely as a striker, contrary to views expressed by the Manchester United manager.

Southgate's stance is also different from that of his predecessor, Sam Allardyce, who, after his one game in charge against Slovakia last month, said that Rooney could play "wherever he wants".

Rooney had been instructed to operate behind Harry Kane in a 4-1-4-1 formation against Slovakia, but as the game progressed, he increasingly dropped deeper into midfield with an apparent freedom that Allardyce endorsed afterwards.

Southgate, in contrast, will expect all his players to fulfil the specific role he gives them, with the work on team shape and structure expected to be a fundamental part of the training sessions he will put on this week before England face Malta on Saturday.

While it was intriguing to hear him disagree with Mourinho, Southgate stressed: "I don't want to go against Jose, but I think Wayne can play any number of different positions and very well.

"The only thing I would say is that what's key for this team when I look at them is that whatever system we play, whatever position we ask them to play, there must be clear tactical responsibility."

Southgate refused to confirm that Rooney would start against Malta after being used as a substitute for each of United's past three matches, but he insisted that the 30-year-old would provide a crucial leadership role even if he is left out.

The deployment of Rooney will be crucial to Southgate's team and the balance of the side, with the situation complicated by Dele Alli's superb form for Tottenham Hotspur in the No. 10 role, the captain's favoured position.

Southgate's two options appear to be asking Rooney to fill in for the injured Harry Kane and play as a central striker, or revert to the midfield position he occupied with mixed results at the European Championship in mid-year.

The man usually in charge of England's Under-21s had previously said he was not ready to manage the seniors even on a temporary basis. But, having been persuaded to change his mind, he also set about tackling what he described as "an accusation that has been thrown at me for about 40 years", namely that he lacks the edge that most of the successful people in his profession usually have.

"It can be (a compliment) and sometimes it isn't necessarily," Southgate said. "I guess the best thing is to talk to the people who have worked with me. I don't think you can have just one style and when firmness and discipline are needed the players I have worked with, certainly over the last three or four years, would be able to tell you that's there."

Yesterday, Burnley defender Michael Keane, 23, earned his first England call-up after Stoke City's Glen Johnson was ruled out through injury.

THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'Tactical discipline key for Southgate'. Print Edition | Subscribe