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'Absolutely amazing' - Delph thrilled with 'massive honour' of captaining England

3:55 PM MYT 16/11/2018
Fabian Delph England USA 15112018
The latest man to wear the armband for the Three Lions spoke of his pride after leading his country out against the United States

Fabian Delph was thrilled to captain England for the first time, hailing the achievement as "something I’ll remember for the rest of my life."

The 28-year-old was England's oldest player in the starting XI as they ran out 3-0 winners against the United States at Wembley, in a friendly match that celebrated Wayne Rooney with a final 120th appearance.

Rooney, wearing the number 10 shirt for the last time, took the armband off Delph when he came on as a second-half substitute, as his team-mates were keen to give him the best possible send off as the country's record goal scorer.

And it was a night to remember for Delph as he fulfilled a lifelong dream of pulling on his country's armband.

"We’ve got a lot of leaders at Man City," he told reporters after the game. "Vincent’s a very good leader but we’ve got five or six very vocal lads in the team, including myself, so it’s a role I’m used to having. I was captain at Aston Villa before I went to Man City, so I’ve been in that position before,

"It felt absolutely amazing. To represent your country is a massive honour but to lead them out as captain is something very special, something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I always dreamt I would represent my country.

"I’ve always been the type of guy with a leader’s mentality whether I’ve got the armband or not, I’m usually very vocal. But to actually have the armband and lead the boys out was an amazing moment for me."

Jadon Sancho also earned his first start for his country and was the youngest England player on a night when Lewis Dunk, Callum Wilson and Alex McCarthy made their debuts.

Delph's Man City lost Sancho to Borussia Dortmund in a cut price £8 million ($10m) move in the summer of 2017, leaving the pair to only train together for a week.

Sancho has gone on to shine for Dortmund this season, registering five goals and seven assists in all competitions for the Bundesliga leaders.

England is often labelled as a nation which struggles to produce technical players but Delph believes Sancho's skillset proves otherwise. 

"I’m so pleased for him," he said of the BVB star. "Only 18 years old, to put in a performance like that, it was a very, very mature performance. He’s a special talent and the sky’s the limit for him. He’ll keep working hard and pushing forward, but I wasn’t surprised. I knew what he was capable of. It’s just pleasing that you guys get to see it.

"There’s a stigma around English players in the past, but this kid’s technically very good, he can dribble with both feet, he can score goals and get assists, he’s very fast. He makes very smart decisions for someone at such a young age, so I can see him progressing and doing well in the future."

Such technical skill needs to be matched by tactical understanding if England aim to build on their run to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia.

The Three Lions will be delighted that Croatia's last-minute winner against Spain has kept them in the running to top their Nations League group.

It sets up a tense finale as England face Croatia at Wembley on Sunday with the chance to get through to the semi-finals of UEFA's newest competition with a win, though a loss would see them relegated. 

But Delph believes that Southgate has done well in building on what his players are learning at elite clubs while getting his own tactical message across to a group he doesn't have the chance to work with often.

"I think the message is very clear," Delph continued. "Everyone is very well drilled whatever formation we play. For me, I’m used to playing in different positions being at City. With the manager there we’ve got five or six different ways to play.

"It’s something I’m quite accustomed to, but Gareth and his team get the message out very clearly to the lads and if we’re able to implement what they want us to do, we’re usually successful. It’s always difficult because you come from your clubs and we’re only here four or five times a year with the national team.

"So you’ve almost got to pull yourself out of what you’ve been doing with your club and sink your teeth into what Gareth wants. But because we’ve got such good managers in the Premier League, the lads are becoming versatile and able to adapt to different systems."

The night belonged to Rooney, though, and Delph was happy to sign off with a tribute to a legend on his final bow for his country.

He added: "It’s been a fantastic week for him and for us guys, we’ve really enjoyed having him.

"You can see the class and the quality is still there, and for any young player wanting to do well in football, he’s definitely a role model that people will look up to."