London (AFP) – Captain Wayne Rooney has called on England’s stars to stick together as they get back to work following the disgraced Sam Allardyce’s shock departure.
Allardyce was forced to resign as England manager after just 67 days and one game in charge following his controversial comments to undercover newspaper reporters investigating football corruption.
Gareth Southgate will serve as England’s interim boss for the next four matches and one of his first decisions was to retain Manchester United striker Rooney as his skipper.
Rooney is set to lead England in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Malta at Wembley and the 30-year-old is eager to focus on football after a difficult period for the national side.
“We need to build on the three points we won in the last game (against Slovakia) and the other side of it isn’t our issue, it’s nothing for us to be concerned about,” Rooney said on Tuesday.
“It’s a shame, everyone could see how excited Sam was for the job and he came in and showed that enthusiasm to the players.
“It’s a shame it’s happened and I’m sure he deeply regrets it. It was a decision for the FA to take.
“As a group of players we need to stick together and concentrate on the football. For the FA I’m sure it has been a tough couple of weeks but for the players we’ve been with our clubs and we have to focus on the games.”
The start of Rooney’s England career intersected briefly with the end of Southgate’s international days just over a decade ago.
And Rooney backed the temporary appointment of the England Under-21 boss as the ideal solution to a difficult situation.
“He’s done a very job with the Under-21s and he’s got an opportunity to show what he can do at senior level,” Rooney said.
“He’ll bring his own way of working, it’s going to be good to see what that is in the next week. We have to buy into his ways and take his ideas on board.”
– Upheaval –
Rooney’s role with England has been under heavy scrutiny since his lacklustre displays during a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign.
Relieved that Southgate remains on his side, Rooney hopes to repay his faith against Malta and then Slovenia in another qualifier next Tuesday.
“There was a lot of talk over whether I’d be captain or not so it was good Gareth put that to bed quite early and there wasn’t the speculation,” Rooney said.
“We’ve got two games this week that we have to win. Whether that was with Gareth or Sam we have to try and get six points. If we do that Gareth will be happy and we’ll be happy.”
After Allardyce’s demise and the post-Euro 2016 exit of Roy Hodgson, England will be playing under a third manager in their last three games when they face Malta.
England defender Gary Cahill is used to managerial turmoil after a long spell at notoriously unsettled Chelsea and he believes his international team-mates will adapt to the sudden change of coach.
“It’s disappointing to lose a manager but we have to move on and prepare for the games coming up in the best possible frame of mind,” Cahill said.
“As players, especially us older ones, you learn to kind of move on and get cracking straight away under the new manager.”
The Football Association have until next year to find a permanent boss, but Cahill doesn’t expect the governing body to ask his opinion.
“It’s for the FA who they’re going to appoint. For me, obviously an English manager would be good, but it’s whoever is in the best shape and who is going to leave the country in the best way.”
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