Gareth Southgate has discussed Jude Bellingham’s role for England and has explained his selection of Jordan Henderson despite the midfielder’s fitness concerns.
Henderson was selected in England’s 26-man squad for this summer’s European Championship despite not featuring in the Premier League for Liverpool since February, with the 30-year-old having sustained a groin injury that curtailed his campaign.
Henderson faces a race against time to prove his fitness ahead of the tournament with England’s campaign set to get underway against Croatia on June 13, though Southgate has revealed the star’s influence was considered when including him in the squad.
“I don’t think it would be fair to rule him out of it. But I think it’s clear to everyone how much football he has missed,” Southgate told a press conference.
“The timelines are getting more difficult with each training session he might miss and to not have those match minutes is a blow towards that. But as I said before, I’m being very realistic about what’s possible here.
“It’s a decision we took because we have been able to take extra players and we feel he is such an important influence around the place and can add value to what we are doing and if we can get him close to being able to contribute on the pitch that will be a real bonus as I see it at them moment.”
One man who could however be set to feature in midfield in Henderson’s absence is Jude Bellingham after the 17-year-old once again impressed during the friendly win over Austria on Wednesday evening, with the Three Lions boss insisting the Borussia Dortmund midfielder is ready to make an impression.
Asked whether Bellingham could feature, Southgate added: “The best way to answer that is to say he is not just here for the experience although he’s a 17-year-old player.
“You’ve seen what he is capable of, we’ve seen that not only in the Bundesliga matches for Borussia Dortmund but especially the Champions League matches where he had to respond well to that challenge.
“He really competes well and he probably runs more than he needs to at the moment and that’s normal for all young players but we couldn’t be happier.
“The whole group respect him, he has great humility around the camp but he plays with – and I don’t want to say a lack of respect because he has a huge respect for everybody here – but he doesn’t respect them in training.
“He competes with them like he’s been with them from day one which is a great mentality to have.”