Exciting talent is being stifled by our skipper, writes Liam Apicella

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I’m a pessimist by nature, so following the England football team suits my personality down to the ground.

Even so, we have some genuinely exciting youngsters, finally some strength in-depth up front and heck, if Leicester City can win the Premier League, well then anything is possible!

But then, three largely mundane friendlies later and the gloom has descended - hello old friend!

You will have your own theories as to where the main problems lie, but for me, it’s right at the top - the manager and his captain.

Against the Portuguese, it seemed Roy Hodgson has no idea as to his preferred starting line-up, formation or tactics.

And then we have his lieutenant on the pitch - Wayne Rooney. I could fill this paper with the reasons as to why the 30-year-old is far from being the force that he once was.

The fact is, he has reached a stage where he is being shoehorned into the side on reputation.

Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli all found themselves played out of position to accommodate Rooney at Wembley last week and their subsequent performances reflected as much.

Surely it’s no coincidence our most exciting display for some time - the 3-2 win in Germany earlier this year - came when Rooney was sidelined.

I’m not saying he shouldn’t be included in the squad, far from it. England will have the youngest squad in France, so a player with such experience may be valuable.

I’ll be inside the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Saturday night when the Three Lions open up their campaign against Russia. I fancy us to reach the quarters, so a good start is needed.