England manager Roy Hodgson expects Wayne Rooney to be one of the first players on the plane for Euro 2016 but warned the captain that his spot in the starting XI is not certain.
Rooney has been out of action since February after suffering knee ligament damage, missing England’s international friendlies against Germany and Netherlands last month.
In the Manchester United skipper’s absence other players pressed their claims for a spot in England’s Euro 2016 squad, with Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy scoring, while Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck also featured.
However, Hodgson has no intention of leaving Rooney’s name out of the 23-man squad, as long as he is fit and ready to go.
“I have no thoughts of jettisoning Wayne Rooney and I certainly wouldn’t do it because I fear people might be thinking I am cautious,” the 68-year-old said.
“He has been the captain of our team for the last two years and has done extremely well.
“Most teams, if they are any good as teams, don’t throw their captain out the first time a young player comes on the team and scores a goal unless there is a clear reason for doing so.
“Rooney has never given us any reasons to do that and I expect him to get back to fitness, start playing well again and be on the plane to France.
“He’s a very good captain. He’s a very good character. If you really want to know ‘who is Wayne Rooney?’ then I’d look back over his career and his 108 caps and his 50 goals and all his goals for Manchester United and form an opinion of him then.
“I am certain that his major concern now will be to get fit enough and play well enough so he can come to the tournament in top condition.”
But Hodgson warned Rooney that while he may be guaranteed a plane ticket to France, the 30-year-old will have to fight for his spot in the first XI.
“I expect him to accept, like all the other players in the squad, that he will have to play well enough to get into the team,” Hodgson added.
“With Vardy scoring goals and doing well, with Kane scoring goals and doing well, with Sturridge and Danny Welbeck fit again, with Raheem Sterling to come back, the competition is a lot fiercer than it was even two years ago.
“But it would take a lot before I say to Wayne Rooney after just 19 games and two defeats that because I am being pushed to make a brave and bold decision and show what a fantastic forward-thinking and adventurous coach I am, ‘I am leaving you out of the team’.
“It would take an awful lot for me to do that.”