As the current young England team attempts to grow and evolve over the next few years, they will have to do so without the leadership qualities of Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard. He retired from the England National Team on Monday, and it now leaves head coach Roy Hodgson with a dilemma as to who he selects from his young team as the team’s captain for the foreseeable future.
With the team being so young, it really doesn’t leave a lot of potential candidates for the job, and although that should, in theory, make it easier, it actually doesn’t help in this instance. None of the current front-runners are captains at their clubs and none of them really stand out as being obvious picks to wear the captain’s armband.
Star striker Wayne Rooney is the main candidate, followed by Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart and Chelsea center-back Gary Cahill. Some of the younger candidates include Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. Either Henderson or Wilshere would be bold choices, however, and the next England captain is expected to come from either Rooney, Hart or Cahill.
With Nemanja Vidic leaving Manchester United this summer, Louis Van Gaal is also set to choose a new captain at United and Rooney is expected to be in the running for both captaincy roles — whether he is awarded either role, however, is another thing. Rooney is not an obvious captain in terms of being vocal and and a leader on the pitch, but he can set an example with his dedication and work rate — much like David Beckham did in his career. Rooney is not the most trustworthy, though, in terms of his temperament, and he still has immature moments from time to time.
Likewise, Hart does not quite fit the typical mold of a team captain either, as, for right or for wrong, goalkeepers are sometimes frowned upon as being genuine options to captain a team. Ideally, your captain would also be an ever-present in the team, but Hart’s form can be erratic at times, as shown by his demotion to the bench for a spell at City last year. Cahill could be an interesting outsider for the role. He’s not a player who immediately springs to mind, but he is a vocal defender who is a team organizer and is certain to be playing over the next few years as the first choice center-back.
The front-runner would still have to be Rooney, but there are certainly doubts surrounding each of the candidates, which adds intrigue as to which way Hodgson will ultimately lean. Rooney, like his fellow candidates, may not tick every box on the captaincy list, but maybe, just maybe, the distinction of leading his country might just give Rooney the push he needs to finally produce his best form in an England shirt.
And if it did, given the dearth of options for Hodgson to choose from, maybe that should be the most important criteria for the manager to consider. Ultimately, whichever way the England boss decides to go will likely bring criticism and doubters, and it shows not only how difficult Gerrard will be to replace on the pitch, but also as a captain and leader off of it.