Jordan Henderson reacts after England’s win against Romania
Jordan Henderson has declared himself fit to start in England’s opening Euro 2020 game against Croatia. That much is clear. The midfielder even intimidated that the extent of his injury has been overplayed, despite not playing club football since February.
What is a little less clear is how exactly Henderson feels about Roy Keane’s much-discussed comments on the Liverpool captain. The 30-year-old pays his former manager due respect as the man who gave him his Sunderland debut and says he found the comments funny, but he also keeps coming back to them and making reference to some of Keane’s lines. The ITV pundit wondered why Henderson was called up if he is not fit, making jibes about card tricks in the camp.
“To be fair to Roy, he can say what he wants about me,” the midfielder explains. “He gave us me debut and I wouldn’t be here without that. He can say whatever he wants about me. I found it quite funny, actually. So, yeah, listen, we know a little bit more detail, so does the manager, which Roy may not.”
That detail is evidently that Henderson has been working very hard to get fit, and feels well ahead of schedule. For Keane’s part, it is only a few days since Gareth Southgate had been at least speculating on the possibility that Henderson and Harry Maguire may not play any meaningful football at Euro 2020. That is why the extent of Henderson’s insistence at England’s media day at St George’s Park was so striking. The midfielder played his first game since February in England’s 1-0 friendly win over Romania. The sense is of a player sufficiently riled to show how ready he is.
“Physically, I feel good,” Henderson says. “I’ve trained for a long, long time. The difference with training on your own to team training is a big step up but I’ve done that over the last few weeks.
“I’ve played minutes in the game. Ideally, yes, you’d probably want to play a few games more but I think in the game I felt fine. I feel as though I was pretty normal in the game.
“But that’s down to me to show in training how physically ready I am, and then it’s up to the manager to make the decision.”
It is still undeniable that Henderson’s personality makes him perfect for the camp, and that could be seen in his approach to his own situation. He states there was never a point when he felt he was done, that Euro 2020 wouldn’t happen for him. The tunnel-visioned focus was always there/
“All my focus has been on the last couple of months is working as hard as I possibly can to be in a position where I can contribute in the tournament and I’m very thankful I’m in that position now.
“It’s always difficult when you’re injured. I find it difficult when there’s no football, but I’ve worked hard to get to this point so I’m very grateful to be here.
“I was still quite positive and thought I had enough time to train and get back, if not for the end of the season then this tournament. I was always quite positive and so were the physios to be fair.
“There was a bit of a gap then because everyone was off, so I continued to work on my own and then picked up training with England again.
“That period has been really good for me, the intensity has stepped up the last few weeks and I got into the game the other day, which was important, so I’m going into the tournament in a good place, but I also realise I haven’t played that much in recent months. But I feel really good and hopefully I can be ready whenever called upon.”
It’s put to Henderson that, for all people talk about his personality, any player wants to be valued for their football football ability above all else.
“Yeah, and the card tricks he was on about,” Henderson laughs. “Listen, as a player you want to play and I’m not coming here just to be around the camp, like Roy was saying. I want to come here and I want to contribute in the games. How much of that is not really down to me, it’s up to the manager to make the decision.”
As regards that contribution, Henderson acknowledges it isn’t necessarily goals. He admits that the fact he still hasn’t scored for England was one reason he took the penalty off Dominic Calvert-Lewin against Romania on Sunday, only to miss. Southgate hasn’t brought it up with him yet.
“I don’t know if he’s going to,” Henderson smiles. “Not yet, no. He hasn’t mentioned it.
“I felt a bit sorry for Dom, you know, because he probably could have had another goal. But I was thankful he gave us the opportunity to take it and, to be honest, the two penalty takers weren’t on the pitch, so I asked the question but unfortunately it didn’t turn out too well.
“Of course it would be nice to score. Hopefully I’m just saving that for another time. It would’ve been nice to score but that’s not my main focus. My main focus is contributing the best I can and my role for this time is to be successful and win games.”
Remarkably, it was the first penalty he’d taken since the one that was saved against Colombia in the 2018 World Cup last-16 shoot-out. That perhaps explains why it was very similar. It’s put to him that he might start practicing more.
“It looks like I have to or maybe just leave it to people that can actually score them. It’s probably the best option.”
Memories of the 2018 World Cup colour much of England’s campaign, not least the opening game against Croatia. The first game of this tournament happens to be against the side who knocked them out of the last one. Perceptions of both sides have changed, though.
“We maybe owe them off last time but we don’t need any extra motivation to be honest, we’re going into a European Championship where we want to be successful and the first game we know is crucial. It’s a big game in itself. We don’t need any extra motivation, we know Croatia are a good team, as they proved in 2018. It’s a difficult game but again one we’ll look forward to.”
“We’re a good team but we’ve got to keep doing what we’ve been doing, keep working hard, keep the focus, go out and express ourselves and try and use 2018 as a platform to build on.”
England, as Henderson – or Keane – puts it, might have “a bit more up their sleeve”.
The midfielder is certainly ready to put on his boots.
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