Gareth Southgate expressed his disappointment with England supporters who booed Jordan Henderson at Wembley during Friday night’s 1-0 victory over Australia. Despite Ollie Watkins securing the win with a second-half goal, the focus shifted to the negative reaction aimed at Henderson when he was substituted.
Henderson, the former Liverpool captain, faced criticism from the LGBT+ community due to his decision to join the Saudi Pro League in the summer. Southgate, however, defended Henderson’s commitment and contributions to the England team, highlighting his 79 caps and his significant role both on and off the pitch. He praised Henderson’s professionalism and mentoring, especially with younger players like Jude Bellingham. Southgate questioned the logic behind booing a player who has consistently demonstrated dedication to the national team.
Southgate emphasized the importance of support for the entire team, especially as they face a crucial Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy. He acknowledged that the team wasn’t at its best against Australia due to several changes made to the lineup, making it challenging for the players to maintain cohesion. Despite this, he reiterated the team’s efforts and emphasized the need for fans’ backing.
Regarding Henderson’s move to Saudi Arabia and his support for the country’s bid to host the 2034 World Cup, Southgate defended Henderson’s right to represent England without being judged based on external affiliations. He expressed confusion over the negative reaction, questioning how booing a player who wholeheartedly plays for England could benefit either the player or the team.
In summary, Southgate condemned the booing incident and stressed the importance of supporting players who contribute significantly to the national team. He emphasized Henderson’s positive influence and leadership, urging fans to back the team as they prepare for their upcoming crucial match against Italy.