England manager Roy Hodgson has guaranteed captain Wayne Rooney a place in his Euro 2016 squad, but admits his spot in the starting XI is up for grabs.
Manchester United striker Rooney is currently sidelined with a knee problem and there had been concerns that he could struggle to regain full form and fitness in time for the finals in France.
Hodgson says the 30-year-old will definitely travel to the tournament, provided there are no major injury setbacks, but would not assure him of a place in the team that will line up against Russia on June 11.
When asked if his squad place was guaranteed, Hodgson told talkSPORT: “Yes, because he’s our captain, our most experienced player. He’s not missed one of the last eight squads, he’s never let us down.
“And form is something you have to be careful of. Players have to have the right attitude, desire, and loyalty to what we’re trying to do.
“He wouldn’t want me to say that [he’s a certain to start]. He’ll want to play but if I make a decision, he’ll be the first to accept that and be one of the most helpful to the guy who takes his place.
“But I certainly will dismiss any discussions about whether Wayne Rooney will be there. My only fear is whether he will be fit in time, but it’s a minor fear.
“He has more than one string to his bow, he can play behind or as an out-and-out striker. But if that group of players are available it gives us a great choice in terms of system.”
Hodgson admits it is a welcome headache to have a number of possible options in attack, with Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck among the other forwards available to him.
“We’re a little bit spoilt for choice,” he added. “I hope we’ll be able to find a place for a lot of strikers because they do get injured and they’re very useful to have on the bench. And it’s important to have proven goalscorers.
“It’ll be a conundrum, but I’d rather have that problem than that of two years ago when people were saying ‘have we got enough?'”
Hodgson feels buoyed by a sense of optimism after England’s perfect qualifying campaign but has called on the players to learn to cope with the pressure of a tournament as they aim to put their disappointing World Cup firmly behind them.
“The mood of the country pleases me very much. They believe this young team could do quite well in the tournament,” he continued.
“We’ve now got to prepare as well as we possibly can and then it’s really a question of whether the players can handle the pressure. We have to learn to deal with it and embrace it.
“We need to make sure we get off to a decent start. We know how much it means to the country.
“We don’t want to get just to the quarter-finals – we want to go way beyond that. But you have to get there first in order to go beyond it.”