Gareth Southgate hits back at Jordan Henderson critics as fan protest planned

England train ahead of Ukraine clash

Gareth Southgate has fired back at Jordan Henderson’s critics by insisting that he does not select players for England based on the external reaction from supporters. The former Liverpool midfielder has come under fire in recent weeks following his controversial move to Saudi club Al-Ettifaq, who are currently managed by Reds legend Steven Gerrard.

Henderson’s move to Saudi Arabia sparked a wave of criticism on social media, with the 33-year-old having previously been a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights. Homosexuality is technically punishable by death in the Gulf state, leading to accusations of hypocrisy being levelled at Henderson from a section of England’s fanbase.

Supporters are planning to launch a protest against Henderson if he plays against Ukraine on Saturday by turning their backs in the stands, according to The Mirror. Southgate, however, has defended his place in the England squad by insisting that he selects players based solely on what they can bring to the team.

“I don’t pick the team based on external reaction,” said Southgate in Friday’s press conference. “He’s a very experienced professional. He is very mature at handling any situation, really. He has trained really well this week, the whole group has and everyone is available, which is good for us.”

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Southgate went on to insist that Henderson remains a staunch ally of the LGBTQ+ community, regardless of the criticism aimed in his direction over the last few weeks. He added: “Jordan expressed himself this week and he will be sad if that is how they felt.

“His feelings towards that community haven’t changed. As a team, I am sure all of our fans will get behind the team when the game starts. I understand and respect some of the comments that have been made, but I think what has also been said is they will get behind the team when they play and I am sure they will get behind Jordan when the game starts as well.”

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It comes after Joe White, chairman of the Three Lions Pride supporters’ group, revealed that some fans will turn their backs on Henderson as a symbolic gesture rather than boo him if he plays for England on Saturday.

“Having spoken to some of our members, there was a real sense of disappointment,” White told The Mirror. “There was a question on whether people were intending to boo and the original intention was to try to focus on being supportive of the team. But if we wanted to make a stand, then turning our backs is quite a symbolic move, particularly given how the community has felt.”

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