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Jordan Henderson expected to start for England in Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine despite LGBTQ+ criticism

England face Ukraine in a Euro 2024 qualifier on Saturday; LGBTQ+ supporters group Three Lions Pride said they would turn their backs on Jordan Henderson should he take to the field; Follow Ukraine vs England on Sky Sports' digital platforms from 3.30pm, kick-off 5pm

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Rob Dorsett looks at the 'controversial selection' of Jordan Henderson after it was announced the midfielder is expected to be in the starting XI for England in their Euro qualifier against Ukraine.

Jordan Henderson is expected to start England's European Qualifier against Ukraine on Saturday despite backlash from the LGBTQ+ community.

Henderson, a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights during his time as Liverpool captain, has taken widespread criticism for moving to Saudi club Al Ettifaq during the summer transfer window. Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and can result in capital punishment.

    After England manager Southgate selected Henderson for his September internationals, England's LGBTQ+ supporters group Three Lions Pride announced they would turn their back to the pitch if Henderson played for his country again - as that is what they feel he has done to them.

    Manager Gareth Southgate said Henderson, who is expected to start in their Group C fixture in Wroclaw, would be "sad" if England's LGBTQ+ fans turned their back on the team.

    Asked about the protest move, Southgate said: "I think Jordan expressed himself this week that he would be sad if that's how they felt. His feeling towards that community hasn't changed.

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    England manager Gareth Southgate says Jordan Henderson is focused on football despite being heavily criticised after his transfer to Saudi Arabia

    "As a team, I'm sure all of our fans are going to get behind the team when the game starts.

    "I understand some of the comments that have been made and I respect the comments that have been made, but what has also been said is they will get behind the team when we play, and I'm sure they will get behind Jordan when the game starts as well."

    Also See:

    Sky Sports News expects Henderson to start in a three-man midfield alongside Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham.

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    Saudi Pro League director of football Michael Emenalo says he is proud of Jordan Henderson and claims he should not be vilified for joining Al Ettifaq

    Asked if Southgate considered taking Henderson out of the firing line, the England manager said: "I don't pick the team based on external reaction, as I'm sure you're aware over the course of the last seven years.

    "He's a very experienced professional. He's very mature at handling any situation really. He's trained well this week, the whole group has, and everyone is available for us which is really pleasing."

    What Henderson said this week

    When his move to Saudi Arabia was completed, quotes from Henderson in 2021 - where he said the idea of playing in a place that makes others excluded based on their identity "blows my mind" resurfaced.

    In his interview with The Athletic earlier this week, the England midfielder defended his decision to move to Saudi Arabia, admitting he "strongly believed" it was the right thing to do.

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    Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol explains the comments and decisions made by Jordan Henderson following his in-depth interview with The Athletic about his move to Saudi Arabia

    "All I've ever tried to do is help," Henderson said in the interview. "And when I've been asked for help, I've gone above and beyond to help. I've worn the laces. I've worn the armband. I've spoken to people in that community to try to use my profile to help them. That's all I've ever tried to do.

    "I'm not going to sit here saying, 'Why are they criticising me?' I understand it. These are all the things I was thinking about, and I do care.

    "When I hear stuff like, 'You've turned your back on us,' that hurts me. I do care. I have family and friends in the LGBTQ+ community … I'm comfortable knowing exactly what I am and exactly what I stand for. But I get and I can accept not everyone's going to get that. So that's why I can only apologize to those people if they feel like that."

    Henderson explanation for Saudi move fails to convince

    Sky Sports' Adam Bate:

    "If people were waiting for Jordan Henderson's explanation for his move to Saudi Arabia in the hope that there would be an argument in there to persuade them, they will have been disappointed. The quotes were new but the arguments were old.

    "He began his interview with The Athletic by stressing that all this fuss could have been avoided had Liverpool only made more of an effort to keep him. "If one of those people said to me, 'Now we want you to stay', then we wouldn't be having this conversation'.

    "He attempts to frame his reluctance to move to another Premier League club as an example of his loyalty. The determination to play more regularly as proof of his passion for playing for his country. "England is a big thing for me. You have got the Euros coming up."

    "It fails to convince."

    Read Adam Bate's analysis of Henderson's Saudi move in full

    Merson Says: England midfield selections are ridiculous

    Henderson (right) was controversially selected by Southgate after his Saudi Arabia move
    Image: Jordan Henderson was picked by Gareth Southgate (left) instead of West Ham's James Ward-Prowse

    Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson:

    "When the squad came out, Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of the midfielders. If you're James Ward-Prowse, you're thinking: 'I'm never playing for England.'

    "You've got Jordan Henderson playing in the Saudi league in front of 6,000 people every week and then you've got Ward-Prowse, who's playing very well for West Ham.

    "He's been one of the game changers but he doesn't get a look in. It's ridiculous.

    "Alexander-Arnold is a defender. He played one game in midfield for England against Malta. I mean… Malta. I expect a professional footballer in the Premier League to be able to do well in midfield against Malta.

    "And what about Kalvin Phillips? He doesn't play football.

    "When I played, if Gazza [Paul Gascoigne] wasn't playing, he wouldn't get picked - and he was the best player by a million miles.

    "If Gareth Southgate had been ripping it up when he was playing at Aston Villa, but there was a centre-half getting picked in front of him who wasn't playing for his club, he'd have been fuming. Who wouldn't?

    "Gareth will say: 'These players don't let me down.' But the problem is, the day they do, he's in big trouble. He's putting his neck on the line."

    Follow the Euro 2024 qualifier between Ukraine and England live on Sky Sports' digital platforms on Saturday from 3.30pm, kick-off 5pm

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