Following on from the criticism levelled at England and Manchester United centre half, Harry Maguire, during the September international window, former Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson found himself on the end of fan ire during the pretty lacklustre narrow victory over Australia in Gareth Southgate’s latest friendly clash.
Having surprised many, not least given his own figurehead status talking about discrimination and equality in recent years, the 33 year old former Liverpool skipper was one of the players who jumped to the reported riches being offered by the Saudi Arabian Pro League this summer as they emerged as a very unlikely destination for some of the Premier League and top European talent.
He had spoken about his understanding of the reasons for his departure, and manager Jurgen Klopp chose to not really disagree with him, instead choosing to add a bit of context to the discussions, as well as expressing sympathy for any misunderstandings, but fans booed him when he was replaced in the game against Australia in the 62nd minute, and whilst plenty will say it was a direct reaction to his move to Al-Ettifaq, it cannot be forgotten it was a dire and woeful performance first and foremost.
“It’s not nice, your own fans booing. I love playing for England. I have done for many years, that’s why I’m still here. I still want to play for England for as long as I possibly can and give everything for the team, for my country.”
Despite that particular reaction, Henderson seems determined to improve on his 79 caps for his country so far, but whatever role the actual performance played in the booing, as a prominent supporter pf the LGBTQ+ community – same sex sexual activity is illegal is Saudi Arabia – it has to be noted that this was his first game back for Southgate since making that move over the summer.
“Not really. I don’t know… if people want to boo if I’m playing in a different country, that’s fine. Everyone is going to have an opinion over it when I’m playing over in Saudi. I’ve spoken in the past about the reasons for that. Whether people believe us or not is up to them. Of course it’s disappointing, but it won’t change what I do here. I want to keep playing and keep fighting and help the team become successful. I haven’t been surprised by that because I can understand the reasons in what they’re saying. I look at it from a different point of view, obviously. But I can understand it and I’ve got to take that on the chin.”
For himself, Southgate offered.
“It defies logic that you would give a player who is playing and putting his heart and soul into playing for England…why boo him?”
Whatever a fans individual thoughts on Henderson, there will be plenty who remember selection on merit through performing at the very highest levels – arguably Henderson is doing neither now.