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Other SportsSouthgate asks England fans to get behind Henderson

Southgate asks England fans to get behind Henderson

Gareth Southgate has called on the England supporters to get behind under-fire midfielder Jordan Henderson in tomorrow night’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy at Wembley.

Henderson was booed by the home fans as he was substituted in Friday’s 1-0 friendly win over Australia due to his decision to move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq over the summer after previously being a vocal supporter for the LGBTQ community.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

A draw against Italy will be enough for England to progress to the finals next summer and Southgate is hoping the fans will put their grievances with Henderson to one side and cheer the team on to a place in Germany.

Asked if he will continue to pick the former Liverpool captain, Southgate said: “Yes, 100 per cent. I’ll always pick the players that I think give us the best chance of winning unless there is something there that’s not appropriate.

“People may disagree with Jordan’s decision [to move to Saudi Arabia] given the stance he’s taken in the past to support the LGBTQ community but I don’t think that’s a reason to not select him, and I don’t think that’s a reason to boo him.

“We’d like all the fans to get behind us. We’re a stronger team when the fans support us.

“We’ll assess Jordan like every other player. If I select on popularity the team would look very different.”

Southgate has been questioned for his continued support of Henderson and Harry Maguire, who has struggled for form with Manchester United over the past 12 months.

But he insisted they were there on merit, adding: “I will always assess how people are playing and assess what our strongest team is.

“It wouldn’t be fair to say I select the players regardless. But I will always defend our players because we need that strength.

“The two players you’re taking about have performed time and again in massive games for us. Their experience, the unmeasurable factors that they have, is [key to] our team spirit and their characters are a big reason for that.”

Pressed further on why people would feel the need to boo Henderson, Southgate said: “I don’t understand why we’d boo our own team.

“What I do understand is that people would feel the decision that Jordan took doesn’t align with his strong support of the LGBTQ community in the past.

“I don’t think he’s an individual whose values and principles have changed.

“He’s someone I’d back against pretty much anyone in the country in terms of what he stands for and believes in.

“But I accept the decision to go and play there doesn’t align with that, and he understands that. But I repeat when we’re playing for England I feel as though everyone should be behind the team.

“If people choose not to be then we have to deal with that.”

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.
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