FABIAN DELPH will become the first former Leeds United player to captain England since James Milner in 2016.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has revealed that the 28-year-old Manchester City star will lead the Three Lions in Thursday night’s friendly against the USA at Wembley.
Delph left Leeds for Aston Villa in August 2009 for around £6m with the midfielder then moving to City in July 2015 for around £8m.
Milner is presently the most recent former Whites player to have captained the Three Lions with the Horsforth-raised footballer wearing the skipper’s armband under Roy Hodgson for the friendly international against Holland at Wembley in March 2016.
Delph will become only the seventh former Leeds United player to captain the Three Lions, following Milner, Rio Ferdinand, Danny Mills, Robbie Fowler, Trevor Cherry and Willis Edwards. The latter captained England in the late 1920s.
Fowler also wore the captain’s arm band during the second half of England’s friendly against Italy in 2002 at Elland Road while Mills performed the same duty the following year as the Three Lions took on Australia at Upton Park in another friendly, a game in which Wayne Rooney made his debut, both under Sven-Goran Eriksson.
A lot of the attention in the build-up to Thursday’s friendly has been around the decision to award Wayne Rooney the chance to wave farewell to the international scene, and while England’s record-goalscorer will take the armband at some point on the night, it will be Delph who leads his country for the first time.
“Fabian is captain tomorrow night, and the players are keen that Wayne wears the number 10 and we believe that is a fitting tribute,” said Southgate.
“Fabian is captaining his country for the first time and it is brilliant reward for him. He is an outstanding player and outstanding person.
“He is a huge leader within our group and I have really enjoyed working with him. You don’t give the England captaincy to someone unless you really think they can carry it and he has those outstanding attributes.
“He was one of the big reasons we were successful (in the summer).”
City midfielder Delph confirmed that he would hand the armband over to Rooney when he makes his 120th and final international appearance.
He said: “When I first came into the England set-up, Wayne was captain and welcomed me and made me feel at home. As soon as he comes on tomorrow, I will be giving him that armband back.
“We will give him a guard of honour. It will be a huge night for Wayne and we want to make it special for him.”
Southgate again defended the decision to award Rooney a farewell at Wembley just three days before a crunch Nations League fixture against Croatia, and claimed it will not affect their preparations.
“I think it is fitting and having seen him in training, it won’t change the quality of what we are trying to do, but we have to balance it with trying to get some of the younger players some time ahead of Sunday (when they play Croatia),” he said.
“It is very important to all of us that he gets the right sort of send off. There is enormous respect in this team for all ex-players, and they want to make it really positive for Wayne and his family.”
Rooney’s call-up has received a mixed reception, but Southgate added: “Our supporters are well aware of the contribution Wayne has made to England and that he is our record goalscorer, which is an incredible achievement.
“It is a very special night for him and I know there are many supporters who want to pay thanks.”