Jordan Henderson to captain England against Slovenia with Wayne Rooney benched

Jordan Henderson to captain England against Slovenia with Wayne Rooney benched

With Wayne Rooney dropped for England's clash with Slovenia in Ljubljana on Tuesday night, interim boss Gareth Southgate has confirmed that Jordan Henderson will captain the national team for the first time in his place.

Charlie Malam

Jordan Henderson will captain England in the absence of Wayne Rooney for their 2018 World Cup qualifier away at Slovenia on Tuesday night.

Interim manager Gareth Southgate confirmed that Manchester United's Rooney, who has captained his country since being appointed by Roy Hodgson in August 2014, would be benched in his pre-match press conference on Monday evening.

And Southgate, who will oversee the second of four games of his temporary charge in Slovenia, subsequently revealed that Liverpool captain Henderson would fill in for Rooney.

He told the press at the Stožice Stadium that he has been "very impressed" by Henderson, adding: "What stood out for me is that he had to captain a football club and take over one of the most iconic figures in English football [Steven Gerrard]."

Interim England manager Gareth Southgate and Wayne Rooney in Monday's press conference in Slovenia.

Southgate hailed the midfielder for having "a voice" and an "opinion" on "what he thinks" the national set-up "need to work on" and hailed his "good tactical mind" and the way he has "matured" in the last few years.

The 46-year-old also admitted that it was "not an easy decision" as he spoke about the "other senior players in the squad" whom he could have chosen to hand the responsibility instead, continuing: "But because he is the captain of a big football club, it was the right decision for me."

Rooney believes Henderson has "deserved" captaincy opportunity

Much will be made of the decision to drop 30-year-old Rooney, whose role in the team for his club and his country has long come into question.

The 30-year-old has only been a substitute in United's last three games, despite also captaining Jose Mourinho's men, but is also England's current record goalscorer with 53 goals.

Though he started against Malta at the weekend as he chases down another record, this time Peter Shilton's record of being the most-capped English player with 125 caps (eight more than Rooney), he will start from the bench for his country's third World Cup qualifier.

Rooney has scored just once in 12 games for United and England so far this term and has backed Henderson to succeed in his place as captain.

Jordan Henderson has captained Liverpool since the departure of Steven Gerrard in the summer of 2015.

"I'm positive," he responded, when asked for his thoughts on being dropped to the bench. "Of course I want to play but I'm in a positive frame of mind and [I will be] ready to come on if needed.

He hoped that he doesn't "have to come on to help win it" and said he understood and respect his manager's "difficult decision", suggesting Henderson has the credentials to lead the team out.

Rooney declared Henderson "a fantastic leader" and praised him for growing "into the position" of Liverpool skipper, which he said was "a difficult job" to take over from Gerrard.

"He has great leadership qualities and he deserves his chance," he continued, insisting it will be "an incredibly proud moment" for Henderson and his family.

Southgate: Decision to bench Rooney "based on the opposition"

Rooney and Henderson in England training in London earlier on Monday.

Southgate added that while Rooney has been dropped on this occasion, he is "still captain of this team" and called it only "a football decision" solely "based on the opposition."

And on Slovenia, he added that he has been "impressed" with what he's seen of Srečko Katanec's men, who beat Slovakia 1-0 at home on Saturday having drawn 2-2 with Lithuania last month.

"It's a tight group now with the way results have gone," admitted Southgate, who defied: "We want to leave here top of the table." 

England go to Ljubljana looking to maintain their 100 per-cent record after a 2-0 win over Malta at Wembley Stadium on Saturday afternoon followed on from a 1-0 win at Slovakia in September.

Eric Dier will replace Rooney in the side, Southgate explaining that the decision to bring the Tottenham Hotspur holding midfielder into the team is "in no way" a "reflection" of Rooney's performance in the weekend's win.

Instead, he added it is because they "looked at the way Slovenia play" and felt a different "profile of the midfield" was needed.