Gareth Southgate criticises England fans over Jordan Henderson jeers

AL Ettifaq midfielder was booed during friendly win over Australia at Wembley Stadium

Jordan Henderson captained England against Australia in the absence of Harry Kane who was rested for the friendly match at Wembley Stadium. Reuters
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England manager Gareth Southgate has criticised fans after midfielder Jordan Henderson was jeered by home fans during the friendly win over Australia at Wembley Stadium.

Captain Henderson, 33, was booed by a section of fans when he was substituted in the 62nd minute of the 1-0 victory on Friday night.

The reaction to Henderson, who left Liverpool to join Saudi Pro League side Al Ettifaq in the summer, clearly annoyed Southgate who lept to his player's defence after the match.

“I really don't understand it. He's a player who has won 79 caps for England and his commitment and what he has delivered for England is exceptional,” Southgate told reporters.

“He's a brilliant role model for all of the group in his professionalism and his approach. Some people deciding to boo, I really don't understand what that is for. Come on – we play Italy on Tuesday and let's get behind this team.

“I don't really know where we are heading with everything. I'm hugely impressed with the impeccable values and decisions that everyone in our country is making now.

“I know what's created it and it's happened but it defies logic to me that you would give a player – who is putting his heart and soul into playing for England – why you would boo him?”

A goal from Ollie Watkins earned Southgate's much-changed side secure an unconvincing win.

Henderson, Jack Grealish and Trent Alexander-Arnold were the only players with more than 10 caps in Southgate's starting line-up and it showed in an incoherent display.

Among the new faces in England's unfamiliar line-up were Chelsea defender Levi Colwill, making his debut in a back four featuring fellow international novices Lewis Dunk and Fikayo Tomori.

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah made a quiet debut as a second-half substitute, while West Ham winger Jarrod Bowen showed little of the quality that makes him a key player for the Europa Conference League holders.

“It's tough when you haven't got a lot of caps behind you. We were not cohesive, but I gave the players a really tough challenge. Australia were athletic and well organised, so I'm pleased for the win,” Southgate added.

A sold-out Wembley crowd watched a surprisingly hard-fought friendly between these great sporting rivals as the hosts experimented with Euro 2024 in mind.

England can wrap up qualification against Italy on Tuesday night and Watkins boosted his chances of being on the plane to Germany with a goal and solid display.

The Socceroos can count themselves unlucky to leave Wembley without so much as a goal to celebrate.

Lewis Dunk's brilliant block denied Ryan Strain ending a fine team move just before half-time and Connor Metcalfe headed off the outside of the post late in the second period.

But England rode their luck to emerge victorious as Watkins, winning his first cap since March 2022, turned in Jack Grealish's cross-shot at the far post in the 57th minute having earlier hit a post.

The in-form Aston Villa striker will have boosted his chance of being regular back-up to captain Harry Kane, whose place on the bench meant Henderson wore the armband.

“It has been a long time coming,” Watkins told Channel 4. “I have been waiting a long time for the next call-up. I was looking forward to it and I wasn't going to let this opportunity slip.

“I knew I wasn't going to come off this pitch without the goal, that was in my mind.”

Updated: October 14, 2023, 7:53 AM