Gareth Southgate says he does not understand the reception Jordan Henderson received at Wembley during England’s victory over Australia.
Henderson was booed by sections of the Wembley crowd as he was replaced after an hour during Friday’s 1-0 friendly win, in what was the midfielder’s first appearance at the national stadium since his summer move from Liverpool to Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq.
The 33-year-old’s decision to move to Saudi Arabia received criticism following his previous allyship for the LGBTQ+ community. Southgate has also been questioned over whether he would continue to select Henderson due to the standard of the SPL, but he has been named in both England squads since his move.
“I really don’t understand it,” Southgate said. “He’s player who has 79 caps for England, his commitment and what he’s delivered for England is exceptional, his role within the group on and off the pitch is phenomenally important.
“He’s the one who’s taken the likes of Jude Bellingham under his wing… he’s a brilliant role model in his professionalism.
“Some people decided to boo, I really don’t understand what that is for.
“We’re viewing all of the games (in Saudi Arabia). I think he knitted things together and held things together for quite a bit today. We didn’t have as many physically strong players on the pitch today. You need leadership, we didn’t have a lot of caps on the field.”
Henderson was one of a number of SPL players who appeared in social media videos last week pledging his support for Saudi Arabia’s 2034 World Cup bid. Southgate dismissed that this was a justification for England supporters to boo him.
“What has that got to do with supporting a guy that’s wearing an England shirt?” Southgate added. “I don’t really know where we’re heading with everything.
“I don’t understand it. I know what’s created it and I know why it’s happened but it defies logic to me that you would give a player who’s giving his heart and soul into playing for England, why boo him? It doesn’t help him or the team.”
England secured a 1-0 victory over Australia thanks to Ollie Watkins’ second-half goal.
Southgate’s side return to action on Tuesday with a Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy.
Jordan Henderson: I strongly believe that me playing in Saudi Arabia is a positive thing
(Photo: Eddie Keogh – The FA via Getty Images)