England legend Kenny Sansom tells Zap Sportz exclusively that now is when Gareth Southgate will really start to learn about his squad.
England have two games left in their World Cup qualifying group, at home to Slovenia and away to Lithuania. We’re five points clear and we’ll qualify if we beat Slovenia at Wembley. We have to be professional and take the Slovenia game seriously, then we can think about Lithuania afterwards.
Harry Kane is England’s captain for the Slovenia match and I think it’s good that Southgate hasn’t chosen a full-time captain yet. It’s a chance for players to go out on the pitch and show some character. For Southgate, it’s a case of ‘go and show me that you want it’.
You might be captain at your own team, but you still have to show it for England. Southgate wants to see eleven players showing that they want it. Picking a regular captain will be a tough decision.
For me, Bryan Robson was a fantastic captain. Even when things aren’t going well, your captain still has to play the captain’s role. A great captain is someone who knows when a teammate is not playing well, but still captains the team.
He knows when he needs to give a rollicking and make decisions on the pitch for the manager. Robbo was great, a true skipper! We had quite a few to pick from. Robbo, Ray Wilkins, Glenn Hoddle, Gary Lineker, but Robbo was the best.
There will be tension and expectation for England ahead of the World Cup in Russia. There will be nerves among the players and Southgate will want to look at that. He’ll want to look at every individual in his squad. That will be very important over the next six months and how they’re playing for their clubs.
But training is very important as well, it’s massive. Gareth will be looking to see if players have something that will upset other teams and players that really want to be in that squad. He’ll run private training sessions, to try special things and make sure that the players do their job. If they do that, you have a chance.
Every little detail will matter. What systems to play, which players suit that. These are very special details that Southgate will want to look at. If we beat Slovenia and qualify, it’ll give Southgate the chance to experiment a bit against Lithuania and learn about his staff too, his team around him.
In tournaments, if players don’t want to sit on the bench it’s not a bad thing, it’s more the way they accept being on the bench. If a player is a bit too happy being on the bench, does he not want to play? I wouldn’t want to be on the bench, I wanted to play!