Jordan Henderson has laughed at Roy Keane’s jibe that the Liverpool midfielder is ‘only in the England squad this summer as a glorified cheerleader’.
The Liverpool captain came on at half-time during Sunday’s 1-0 win over Romania. He endured a mixed return to action as he played his first minutes since February, though. The 30-year-old had the chance to make it 2-0 from the penalty spot, but goalkeeper Florin Nita saved his effort.
Speaking after the match, Gareth Southgate insisted that he would “pull rank” over his penalty taker next time.
Indeed, he intended for Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin to take the second spot-kick, after Marcus Rashford and James Ward-Prowse went off.
Nevertheless, Keane offered his view, claiming that Henderson clearly lacks the fitness going into Sunday’s Euro 2020 opener against Croatia.
“I was convinced Jordan was going to play the other day,” the pundit told ITV Sport. “It’s a huge distraction – he’s clearly not fit.
“I don’t think he should be involved. If he can’t start against Romania, he’s not fit. Physically and mentally, this game won’t be that tough for him to deal with, he’s an experienced player.
“He’s not kicked a ball for three and a half months and he’s going to European Championship? He can’t be right.”
Keane added: “What’s he in the squad for? I’ve heard that some of the lads like having him around. What for? Does he do card tricks? Does he have a sing-song? Maybe he can quizzes in the evening? What does he do?”
However, Henderson insists Keane is wrong about him and the Liverpool man is adamant he’ll prove his worth. This England team is bursting with talent and confidence, and as a result, the latest Euro 2020 odds from Betsson show them as favourites over France. Henderson predicts he will have an important role to play in bringing the trophy home.
Henderson, 30, said: “Yeah, and the card tricks he was on about – I’ve got a few of them up me sleeve!
“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 a decision.
“But whenever I’m called upon, I’ll be ready and hopefully I can be a big contribution to this tournament and our success going forward.
“To be fair to Roy, he can say what he wants about me. He give us me debut and I wouldn’t be here without him giving us 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, I know more detail and so does the manager, which Roy may not.
“But in terms of stuff like that, everyone’s going to have an opinion, everybody’s going to think they know better than everybody else.”
Henderson doubtful to face Croatia
Despite Henderson’s pledge, the midfielder does look doubtful for Sunday’s Euro 2020 opener against Croatia.
However, Henderson insists he was always determined to make the tournament following his groin injury in February.
Henderson said: “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 physics to be fair, but when you’re going through the injury and rehab and stuff, you’re always aware of the timeframe, but I’ve worked really hard.
“I’m fit. You probably wouldn’t know, but I’ve trained for a long time. It’s a little bit different training on your own instead of team training, which I managed to do towards the back end of the season with Liverpool.
“I’m going into the tournament in a good place, though I also realise I haven’t played much recently. But I feel really good and hopefully I can be ready whenever called upon.”