areth Southgate vowed not to let a “popularity contest” influence his selection as England manager gave his full support to Jordan Henderson just days after the stand-in captain was mocked at Wembley Stadium.
The Euro 2020 runners-up are close to qualifying for next summer’s finals and will secure their place in Germany should they avoid defeat against Italy on Tuesday night.
Wembley Stadium will be sold out for the second time in five days after Friday’s friendly against Australia produced an impressive turnout in a largely forgettable 1-0 friendly win.
The main topic of discussion after the game was Henderson’s reaction as the former Liverpool captain played his first game on home soil since his controversial move to Saudi Arabian club Al-Ettifaq.
The 33-year-old was mocked when he was substituted in the second half – a negativity Southgate described at the time as “alienating” and a reaction he stressed on Monday will never impact his decisions.
Asked whether he would continue to pick Henderson if the boos continued, Southgate said: “Yes, 100 percent.”
“I will always select the players who I believe are the best players to represent the team, who will give us the best chance of winning, unless I think something is inappropriate.”
“In this case, people may disagree with Jordan’s stance or decision as he has taken a stance in support of the LGBT community in the past.
“But I don’t think that’s a reason not to pick him. I don’t think that’s a reason to boo him either.”
“We want all fans to get behind us. We are a stronger team when the fans are with us and support the team wholeheartedly. This is the connection we have had for a long time.”
“We will judge Jordan like any other player. But if I just chose a popularity contest, our team would look very, very different.”