Paul Lambert urges Gareth Southgate to play Wayne Rooney in his natural position

by Leo Nieboer


Former Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has urged interim England manager to play Wayne Rooney as a striker – his natural position – rather than in defensive midfield.

Rooney was deployed in defensive midfield for England’s 2-0 win over Malta on Saturday night and dramatically failed to impress, prompting some sections of the Wembley crowd to boo the captain.

The 30-year-old, following his abject performance against the minnow side, will start on the bench for England’s World Cup qualifier with Slovenia this Tuesday.

Speaking on Sky Sports earlier today, Lambert insisted that Southgate needs to deploy Rooney in his natural position – namely as a striker.

“I think there’s a clamour about Wayne Rooney at the Euros – it wasn’t all Rooney’s fault at the Euros,” he said.

“I think it’s really harsh what’s happening to him at the moment.

“He’s a brilliant footballer. Being captain of England is a great honour for him. He doesn’t moan about where he’s playing. I still think he’s a better striker than midfielder.

“If he was in Germany he would be put up there on a pedestal. And here we vilify him.”

Southgate, I believe, has already found Rooney’s natural position by dropping him to the bench. That isn’t a joke either: at the age of 30, the captain is entering the latter stages of his career, with far too many miles on the clock. This is a reality that Rooney – like many great players before him – must face.

The strain of playing every week, as shown in the last three seasons, is plunging Rooney further into a mire of lethargy and attacking inertia, and Southgate’s decision to leave him out of the side’s starting XI is a diligent move.

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