Gareth Southgate says he ‘understands and respects’ why some England fans may protest against Jordan Henderson.
However, the Three Lions manager says ‘external reaction’ will not affect his team selection as he prepares for the Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine on Saturday.
Henderson has been a key player for England for nearly a decade, with 77 caps to his name so far, and he is largely expected to play some role against Ukraine and against Scotland in next week’s friendly.
However, the 33-year-old has been a figure of controversy since the summer when he moved from Liverpool to Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq, given his previous support for the LGBTQ+ community.
With homosexuality illegal and punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, the transfer has received fierce backlash and many believe the midfielder has turned his back on those he previously fought so hard for.
An interview where he attempted to defend the move has done little to quell this anger and a group of LGBTQ+ fans have said that while they will continue to support the Three Lions as a whole, they intend to ‘turn their back’ on Henderson if he plays on Saturday.
Asked how he felt about the potential protest against his player, Southgate said in Friday’s pre-match press conference: ‘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.
‘I don’t pick the team based on external reaction. He has trained really well this week, the whole group has and everyone is available, which is good for us.
‘He’s a very experienced professional. He is very mature at handling any situation really.’
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