The Midfield Maestro: Jordan Henderson’s Controversial Move
England’s midfield dynamo, Jordan Henderson, has found himself back in Gareth Southgate’s plans for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine and a friendly against Scotland. At 33, Henderson has taken a bold step, leaving the Premier League’s Liverpool for Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ettifaq. The move has not been without its share of controversy, particularly from LGBTQ+ campaigners, given Saudi Arabia’s stance on same-sex relationships.
Southgate, speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, deflected the scrutiny surrounding Henderson’s move, stating, “It’s for Jordan to decide when he speaks and how he speaks.” The England manager was keen to emphasise that the selection was purely a footballing decision, adding that navigating the complex political aspects was not his forte.
The Defensive Dilemma: Maguire’s Inclusion Despite Limited Game Time
Harry Maguire, the stalwart centre-back, has also been named in Southgate’s squad, despite not featuring for Manchester United this season. Maguire’s previous season was marred by limited first-team opportunities and even saw him stripped of the captaincy. A potential move to West Ham fell through earlier this month, but Southgate has shown faith in the 30-year-old, who has 57 England caps to his name.
The Scotland Showdown: A Historic Fixture
England’s friendly against Scotland at Hampden Park is not just another game; it marks the 150th anniversary of this iconic fixture. With key defenders like Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, and John Stones sidelined due to injuries, Southgate has opted for a blend of experience and youth in his squad.
The New Blood: First Call-Ups and Notable Absences
Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah and Chelsea’s Levi Colwill have received their maiden England call-ups. Kalvin Phillips also makes the list, despite not having played for Manchester City this season. Raheem Sterling, however, finds himself out of the squad once again, despite a strong start to his Premier League campaign with Chelsea.
Southgate addressed Sterling’s absence, stating, “It’s a difficult call, and Raheem is not particularly happy about it, but I’m convinced he’s going to have an excellent season with Chelsea.”
The Final Word: Southgate’s Balancing Act
Southgate has a challenging task ahead, balancing a squad with varying levels of match fitness and navigating the political intricacies that come with international football. “We have lost a lot of experienced players with caps at centre-half,” Southgate noted, adding that the lack of game time for key players like Maguire and Phillips was “far from ideal.”
The England manager is clearly focused on the task at hand: securing England’s place in the Euro 2024 and preparing for the future. It remains to be seen how these selections will impact England’s performances in the upcoming fixtures.