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Southgate not scared to axe Rooney

Press AssociationPress Association 10/10/2016 Simon Peach

Gareth Southgate says wielding the axe on England captain Wayne Rooney would not faze him.

Handed the managerial reins on an interim basis following Sam Allardyce's abrupt exit, the 46-year-old not only has to keep World Cup qualification on track, but also decide how best to utilise his out-of-sorts captain during this period of instability.

Rooney was deployed in a midfield role in Saturday's 2-0 win over Malta, but bore the brunt of the expectant Wembley fans' frustrations when missing a late shot, having been jeered earlier on by pockets of supporters.

Southgate now has to decide whether to stick with the 117-cap skipper in Slovenia on Tuesday.

Such a decision pales into insignificance when compared to those made when in charge at Middlesbrough in 2009.

Staff were let go as the club attempted to cut debts at the Riverside, with the interim England boss saying that is comfortably the hardest thing he has to do in football.

"Making some really close friends redundant - that's probably as big (a decision) as you can get," he said.

"I've got to make decisions which are right for the team and whenever you select a team, with England, you're going to leave some (players disappointed).

"You look at the bench (against Malta) and there are guys that are playing every week in the Premier League for their clubs and so you have to be prepared to do that, that's part and parcel of the job."

Rooney will dominate the build-up to Tuesday's match in Ljubljana, having last week admitted Jose Mourinho was right to drop him at Manchester United following an awful display at Watford.

The 30-year-old joined up with England on the back of three straight matches on the bench, but Southgate was "very pleased" by his display against Malta and does not appear overly concerned by Rooney's lack of game time at United.

"I think at this moment in time that's irrelevant," he said. "Part of that is because we've got 30 per cent of the Premier League eligible for England.

"Of that, some don't want to play, of that some aren't good enough to play and you've got a captain who is desperate to lead on and off the field and continues to make outstanding contribution to that group of players, so that was why he was selected.

"What's happening at Manchester United for this week is not as important."

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