Leeds anchor Kalvin Phillips has defended Gareth Southgate’s decision to include Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson in his Euro 2020 squad despite harsh criticism from Roy Keane.
Henderson, 30, was picked for the European Championship despite missing Liverpool’s last 13 games of the Premier League season following a groin injury in February.
He came on in England’s final warm-up fixture before Euro 2020, missing a penalty in their 1-0 friendly win over Romania to convince Keane further that he isn’t back to his best.
The former Manchester United general appeared on ITV’s coverage of the game and wondered what else Henderson brings to the squad: “He’s an experienced player, but to not kick a ball for three-and-a-half months and go to a European Championship… he can’t be right.
“I’ve heard lots of people say they want him around the place? For what? Does he do card tricks? Does he have a sing-song? Do quizzes in the evenings? What does he do?
“And if you’re Liverpool then you wouldn’t be happy either.”
It was Phillips, 25, whom Henderson replaced to earn his 59th England cap against Romania, with Raheem Sterling being the only squad member with more international experience (61 caps).
And the Leeds midfielder told Sky Sports there is indeed more Henderson can offer aside from what we see on the field: "When people say 'he’s not fit' and 'why is he there?', I just think he’s a good person to have around, especially for the young lads that are here.
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"There’s a lot of young lads, here for their first tournament as well and it’s good to have somebody who can share their experiences with you.
"In Jordan’s case, whether he’s fit or not, I love having him here. I love speaking to him, I love having him around the place because it just makes it a lot more comfortable for players like me."
Phillips—who made his Three Lions debut against Denmark in September—will be one of 16 England players making their first appearance at a major international tournament this summer.
Southgate has assembled one of the youngest squads set to compete at Euro 2020, which comprises only three players over 28 and has an average age of just under 25 years.
Henderson himself responded to Keane’s comments regarding his involvement and said the former Red Devil is entitled to his opinion: "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.
"But for me all my focus has been on the last couple of months, working as hard as I possibly can to be in a position where I can contribute in the tournament – and I'm very thankful I'm in that position now."
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England’s midfield appears to be slightly light on options, with Phillips, Declan Rice and Mason Mount looking like Southgate’s trio of choice if Henderson isn’t fit to start.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham is the other central option for Southgate. The 17-year-old is the second-youngest player in attendance at Euro 2020, with Poland’s Kacper Kozlowski (born four months later) topping that list.
The Three Lions begin their Euro 2020 campaign against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday, with the World Cup runners-up from three years ago likely to be their toughest task in Group D.
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