Leader of men and lions?

With Gary Cahill in the running to captain the Three Lions as well as Chelsea, England internationals past and present have been praising his leadership qualities.

England manager Gareth Southgate is yet to announce who the country's permanent skipper will be heading into next summer's World Cup, following the international retirement of previous incumbent Wayne Rooney earlier this year, but Cahill is one of the leading contenders ahead of the upcoming qualifying matches against Slovenia and Lithuania.

He has worn the armband from the start on three occasions for the national team, including in a friendly against Germany for Southgate in March, and the England manager was clear he thinks the 31-year-old is a strong candidate for the role.

'He is a player who knows what's needed to win and has won nearly every trophy there is to win in football,' said the former Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender. 'He has grown in stature, confidence, the way he uses the ball, showing real composure in the way he plays.

'With his experience, I think he is sometimes overlooked in what he brings to the squad because of the way he goes quietly about his job and gets on with it.'

One of Cahill's predecessors as England captain, Bryan Robson, has given his backing to our No24 and knows a thing or two about what it takes to wear the armband, having skippered the Three Lions at two World Cups and a European Championship, as well as winning two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Cup Winners' Cup with Manchester United. He also has personal experience of working with Cahill from his time in management.

'I had Gary for a three-month spell on loan at Sheffield United when he was 21. Even then he was a good talker and organiser, and he's a quality defender,' enthused Robson. 'He's worked alongside one of the best captains in John Terry and has taken over his mantle at Chelsea.

'He's got experience, 57 caps, and when he talks to younger players he will command their respect. For me, the captain should be Gary Cahill.'

Carlton Palmer, who himself earned 18 caps in the England defence, is backing Cahill too, and feels his place at the heart of the back line and his consistency work in his favour, in addition to his qualities as a leader.

'I believe the skipper of the team should either be a centre-back or midfield player because they can see the whole picture of the game, and someone you know is going to play every game,' he explained.

'I would give it to Cahill. He is a good player, a good leader. He has gone about his job quietly and people don't really mention him a lot now because he is a consistent performer for England and for his club.'

It's not just former England players who have been pointing out Gary's influence on the Three Lions squad, though, with one of his current international team-mates revealing the important role he played on the early stages of his England career.

Manchester City's John Stones, who has frequently lined up as Cahill's central-defensive partner for England, added: 'From the start, he was very welcoming. I come into quite a big squad, with a lot of big players that aren't playing anymore, and Gaz was always very intelligent with how he spoke to me and when he did it.

'Gary is an experienced player at international level and in the Premier League so I have always enjoyed playing with him, training with him. No matter who is on the pitch beside me, I think we have always got that team spirit, but Gary has been very influential for me.'