Jordan Henderson would love to become England’s next permanent captain – and has bought into Gareth Southgate’s dream to develop the best team in the world.
The Three Lions are in the midst of their latest transitional period as they look to secure safe passage to the World Cup and then produce a far better display in Russia than has been seen at recent tournaments.
England have the individuals to perform on the biggest stage but have shown themselves to be mentally fragile – an area Southgate is trying to improve by cultivating leadership qualities within his squad.
The former defender has handed the captain’s armband around as a result, amid Wayne Rooney‘s fading influence before the striker’s international retirement.
But the Three Lions boss has yet to decide exactly what to do in terms of the permanent captaincy.
Henderson has worn the armband in half the matches he has been available for under Southgate and, should a full-time captain be named, he is understandably keen to get the nod.
“Of course (I want to be captain),” Henderson said. “If you ask a lot of the lads in the dressing room, they’ll feel as though they’re ready to lead this team.
“And of course I’m no different but whoever, it’s up to the manager at the end of the day.
“Whoever gets it the lads I’m sure will be right behind the person to help lead. And it’ll not just be one person leading, it’ll be more than that off the field, and doing things on the training pitch and in the meeting rooms that need doing.
“He’s spoken and he doesn’t really want to give it to anyone at the minute, he wants to sort of mix and match and bring leaders through, whether you’re experienced, whether you’re a young player.
“I think it’s just finding the right captain for him really, and for this team, to lead, and that’s totally his decision to be fair.
“I feel as though I’m ready, but I’m sure there’s other lads that feel that as well. Whoever gets it, we’ll be right behind them and, for me, it’ll not change the way I am in this team.
“I’ll do everything I can to help in my role.”
Rooney certainly fulfilled that end of the bargain during his time as captain and was set to be involved again with England this week having been overlooked for their previous two squads.
Instead, the country’s all-time top scorer informed Southgate of his decision to call time on his international career – news that shocked Henderson.
“I was a little bit surprised because of how good he is and how hungry he is to play football,” the Liverpool midfielder said.
“I could see that watching him against (Manchester) City, he was outstanding, and the impact he has on the lads, how good a captain he was.
“But at the same time you have to respect his decision. He felt as though it was the right time to go out, and everyone has to say thanks for what he’s done because he’s been unbelievable for England for the last however many years.
“And hopefully he can keep doing what he’s doing for Everton, because he’s been brilliant when he’s been there – but not too good.”
Rooney is keen to focus on life at Everton but freely admits that not having been part of a successful England side at a tournament will always grate.
Southgate, aware of the past failures, has laid out his ambition to make England the world’s best team.
“We have spoken together as a squad and the target is to be the number one team in the world,” Henderson said ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Malta. “However long it takes, we don’t know.
“It is down to us as a team how far we want to go and how far we want to push ourselves.
“Hopefully we can do that sooner rather than later. I know it is going to take time, but I feel as though we have a great set of lads, a great set of players, a lot of talent, a lot of hard work goes into it.
“At the same time, we have not performed in the last few tournaments I have been to, definitely, and a lot more before that. We need to change something.
“First and foremost we have to get there and make sure we are there. Then the mentality has to change and we need to go and be better than we have been.
“Obviously we know the Euros was not good enough and the World Cup was disappointing. It is a big challenge but one I feel we are ready for.”
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