Gareth Southgate has come to the defense of Jordan Henderson, the England captain, after he faced boos from some England supporters during his return to Wembley following his move to Saudi Arabia. Southgate expressed his bewilderment at the negative response, labeling it as illogical.
In a match where England, featuring a significantly altered lineup, narrowly defeated Australia with a second-half goal from Ollie Watkins, the focus shifted to Henderson’s performance. The game also marked the senior debuts of Levi Colwill and Eddie Nketiah. As Henderson came on after the hour mark, a section of the crowd responded with loud boos.
Southgate expressed his bewilderment at fans’ reaction, noting: “I really don’t understand it; he has won 79 caps for England and his contributions have been remarkable – both on and off the pitch he plays an essential role within this group. He’s been a guiding figure for players like Jude Bellingham since joining the squad. Henderson sets a brilliant example for the entire group with his professionalism and approach. I can’t fathom why some people decided to boo him. We have a crucial match against Italy on Tuesday, and we should unite and support this team.”
Jordan Henderson of Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Pro League recently expressed support for Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the 2034 World Cup via social media posts, yet when asked by Southgate whether this may have contributed to its negative reception he dismissed this theory and noted it could hinder success of their team.
He stated, “What has this got to do with supporting an England player wearing their jersey? I don’t quite see where all this is leading us. I’m genuinely impressed with the principled choices and decisions made by everyone in our country. I understand how these situations arise, but it baffles me why you would boo a player who is wholeheartedly committed to playing for England. Will that help him or the team? I fail to comprehend it.”
Southgate also refuted the notion that Henderson had been underperforming before being substituted. He remarked, “We are assessing all the games. I believe he played an integral role in connecting and stabilizing the team today. Given our squad’s composition for this match, with fewer physically imposing players on the field, we needed leadership. We didn’t have a lot of experienced players or caps on the pitch, so Henderson’s influence was vital both before and during the game. He assisted other players in navigating the match, without a doubt.”