Gareth Southgate does not believe Jordan Henderson will be jeered when he next turns out for England as he reiterated his support of the LGBT+ community after naming the Al-Ettifaq midfielder in his latest squad.
Henderson was included in the 26-man pool for the upcoming games with Ukraine and Scotland as England manager Southgate stuck with the 33-year-old after his move to the Saudi Pro League.
The transfer proved to be a controversial one, with Henderson leaving Liverpool for Saudi Arabia despite having been a keen and vocal supporter of the Premier League’s ‘Rainbow Laces’ campaign and after previously working alongside the Merseyside club’s official LGBT+ fan group in the past.
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The England boss has no concerns that there will be any adverse reaction next time he pulls on the shirt.
“We are picking a team for football reasons,” he said.
“There are lots of different ownership models of clubs in England, there are lots of players playing in countries where there are different religious beliefs, I don’t really know why a player would receive an adverse reaction because of where he plays his football.
“That of course is a personal choice.
“It is really difficult to… I’m a bit lost really with some of the questioning because you walk in to try and talk about a squad announcement based on football decisions and increasingly we are navigating such complex political aspects that I’m not really trained to do.
“Forgive me if I am stumbling a little bit but I find it a really difficult scenario to try and get right.
“We’ll do the best we can and we try to make decisions for any number of reasons but I have to pick a squad based on the players that I think can get us qualified for a European Championship and that’s why we’ve picked the players we have.”
England had previously been criticised by LGBT+ groups after they opted against wearing the ‘One Love’ armband during the World Cup in Qatar last year.
Southgate, though, reaffirmed his commitment to inclusivity, adding: “We are supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.
“A large number of the team and staff have either relatives or friends from that community.
“It is something that we are very conscious of and a situation we are very conscious of.
“We have tried to be very supportive but I also accept members of the community felt let down around the World Cup.
“You have to live your life as you see fit. I can only talk on a personal level and my feelings of what the team represents.
“I always try to do things with my life that I believe are inclusive, I try to be accepting of all cultures and understanding of everybody’s different positions and there might be a feeling we haven’t done enough in certain situations.
“If that is the case, then we have to accept that criticism. But it is not intentional that we would let down any of our fans.
“These are all very complex situations that we are trying to do our best to navigate.”
Former Manchester United captain Harry Maguire and Manchester City midfielder Kalvin Phillips were both included in Southgate’s squad despite being yet to play a minute of club football this season.
Under-21 European Championship winner Levi Colwill received his maiden formal call-up and uncapped Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah has also got the nod for the first time, although there is no place for Chelsea forward Raheem Sterling despite a strong start to the campaign.