Gareth Southgate may wait until World Cup finals to settle on England captain

• Southgate wants younger players to take more responsibility
• Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain likely to play wide role against Malta

Gareth Southgate is prepared to delay a decision over the identity of his permanent England captain until next summer in the hope his younger players take on more responsibility and develop their leadership skills before the World Cup.

The manager has handed the armband to Jordan Henderson, Gary Cahill, Joe Hart and Harry Kane – all members of the squad who are expected to face Malta at the Ta’ Qali national stadium on Friday night – as well as the previous permanent incumbent, Wayne Rooney, since taking up the reins. Southgate had yet to tell his players on Thursday night who would lead out the side here but can see the benefits of passing the captaincy around.

“I want to continue sharing that responsibility,” he said. “It’s been healthy for us. We’re seeing good leaders emerging from the group. People have talked about that not being the case in the past but in my view there are good leaders in the group, not just senior players but among the younger players as well. The more we give them responsibility and allow them to take a lead, the healthier it is for the team. You want people stepping forward making good decisions on the pitch, being brave on the ball, and leading by example.

“I don’t know [whether a permanent captain would be appointed before the World Cup]. I’m not in a rush to do that. I’ll have to give it some thought but it’s not high on my list of priorities. Developing more people who can step up and influence, getting the bond of team really strong, so we stand together, is far more important than putting an individual in a position where, if they’re the only one we’re looking to – and that’s been the case in the recent past – we won’t get the best out of the group.”

England could qualify for the World Cup in Russia by beating Malta, ranked 190 in the world, and then Slovakia at Wembley on Monday if results go in their favour. Hart, whom Southgate still considers his first-choice, will start in goal. Kieran Trippier has returned to Tottenham Hotspur for treatment on a persistent ankle problem. Liverpool’s new £40m signing, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, may feature on the wing rather than in the central midfield berth he craves and hopes to play at Anfield.

“I don’t see him [as a central midfielder],” Southgate said. “He could play as a No8 but we really like him as a wide player. We tried him in a couple of games to look at a different profile but the explosive power and pace, ability to go on the outside of defenders, cross the ball … we feel he’s more productive there. But he could go as a No8 in certain systems.”