Joe Hart loves the fact that Gareth Southgate is trying new things as England manager, and agrees the leadership burden cannot sit squarely on Wayne Rooney’s shoulders.
Optimism surrounding the national team has been growing under the guidance of the 57-cap former defender, who was handed the reins on a permanent basis in November after a promising four-match interim stint.
The Three Lions went down 1-0 to Germany on Wednesday night, Lukas Podolski’s 25-yard rocket providing a fitting end to his international career, but the visitors impressed in Dortmund with their aggressive, attacking intent and three-man defence.
Hart, 29, admitted the result was a difficult pill to swallow having performed so well at Signal Iduna Park, but took positives from the display.
“I loved the fact that we tried something new — a formation I have not personally played before,” said Hart, who sources tell Press Association Sport will captain England in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.
“It has obviously come to light a lot more with how well Chelsea have played it and what [Antonio] Conte has brought to the Premier League.
“It was for a reason, it was to play against the world champions who have been together since I played in the under-21s all them years ago.
“It wasn’t just for the sake of it, it was to combat a good team and it worked well.
“I was really pleased for people like Jake Livermore, who came in. It was a seamless link for him.
“Michael Keane obviously was fantastic, even the way Ryan [Bertrand] played… I can’t speak highly enough of them.
“It annoys me that I’m speaking about this and we lost. I’d love to be talking about it if we’d won, but I need to respect the fact we lost.
“But it felt good, it felt in the small time we were together it worked well.”
Hope is building despite the defeat and struggles of recent years as Southgate not only looks to change the playing style but philosophy.
Southgate has repeatedly underlined the need for leaders and suggested a shift away from the notion of a permanent England captain, admitting he is giving himself time to find the “best scenario.”
“The manager has made it pretty clear it’s just an armband to him,” Hart said. “He wants the players, be it Marcus Rashford or myself, to lead.
“There are different ways to lead — not just being vocal or having a certain amount of caps.
“There’s being brave, making decisions, there’s how you are in meetings.
“There are different ways of leading. The captain’s armband is important, but, with or without it, he expects the same of all of us.”
While numerous players can lead, you cannot buy experience boasted by the likes of Rooney.
Southgate confirmed the 31-year-old as captain after his permanent appointment, but the United forward was left out of the squad amid concerns over game-time and fitness.
“I think it’s important that, when you look at clubs, sometimes the club captain isn’t necessarily involved,” said Manchester City goalkeeper Hart, who is on a season-long loan at Torino.
“Maybe at clubs it’s more important because it’s organising and stuff like that.
“When he’s here, Wayne is our captain, the England captain, and when he’s not here, you’d probably say Jordan [Henderson] and then it moves down from there.
“But, like I say, the main thing is to win the games, qualify for the tournament and do well in the tournament.”
Regardless of the rationale behind the omission this time around, whether Rooney will be at the World Cup next year remains a big question.
“You just meet up with the squad and whoever is fit and available you meet up with,” Hart said of the 119-cap forward’s absence this time.
“He is a huge presence, but football has got this way of happening.
“You would probably say the same if I wasn’t in the squad, but if I wasn’t here I don’t think it would make much of a difference.
“We just keeping going. These are the players for the one game now and we are going to try and win.”