Why it’s time for Henderson to return for England – Asia Despatch

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Danny Murphy

England’s final game in Group D is the perfect time to bring Jordan Henderson back into our midfield.

Henderson might not be everyone’s idea of how to put right what went wrong for us last time out against Scotland but, if he’s ready physically, there are several ways he would make a big difference against the Czech Republic.

Firstly, he has the know-how to realise when to speed a game up by taking risks and playing more forward passes – or longer balls – just as he knows when to calm everything down. We didn’t do either especially well against the Scots.

He is also great at leading the press – he’s very proactive in dictating how the whole team do it so well when he plays for Liverpool.

Again, that was missing for England last time out, and we are going to need it if we take the game to the Czechs the way I think we will.

There is a little bit of pressure on England on Tuesday too, even if our progress into the last 16 of Euro 2020 is already assured.

So, this is an evening for that bit of experience that Henderson would bring, especially if Harry Maguire does not return in defence – Gareth Southgate said on Monday that both of them would be involved, and I’d be surprised if at least one of them didn’t start.

England duo Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson
Liverpool midfielder Henderson has only played 45 minutes of football since February because of a groin injury while Manchester United defender Maguire has been out of action since suffering ankle ligament damage on 9 May. Southgate said on Monday they were “both training very well and will be involved” against the Czech Republic.

Whether Henderson came in for Kalvin Phillips or Declan Rice would not really matter for me – we know how talented they both are, and giving one of them a rest would not be a bad thing.

Even if Henderson only plays for an hour, this is a chance to give him some minutes in this tournament, which is another positive. But on top of that, his leadership is so important, and with him in midfield we will have more influence on the tempo of the game.

Who will show Southgate they want the shirt?

Aside from Henderson, Jack Grealish is the one player I’d like to see start for England in this game. I know I’m not alone there.

Grealish has got that wonderful X-Factor, with the ability to get fans on their feet and make things happen.

He goes past people or pulls them in, and he can see a pass well. It’s time to unleash him – he deserves it.

But, whether it is Henderson and Grealish or someone else, I’d really like Southgate to bring a couple of different players into his midfield and attack, just to freshen things up.

There is definitely competition for places in his squad so I am expecting some changes.

I also think there are a few areas of the pitch where Southgate will be thinking that someone has to convince him they want the shirt now, and this is their chance.

‘We need some momentum for the last 16’

Whoever is picked to face the Czech Republic on Tuesday, I’m confident we will see a reaction from England at Wembley after the disappointment of the Scotland game.

I’m really looking forward to it, because I think our 0-0 draw last time out could be the little kick up the backside we need.

It’s completely normal to see a team put in a bit of a tepid and below-par performance early in a tournament. It’s good to do it in the group stage – and even better if you get a point out of it.

If we go on to have a decent Euro 2020, no-one will remember that Scotland game – well, not in England anyway.

Now is a great opportunity for the team to put in a really good performance that creates some momentum to take us into the knockout stages. We need it.

‘I want to see us win by having a go’

We know the Czechs have got some talent – we will have to watch Patrik Schick, because he has a spring in his step – but they are not a team that fills me with fear.

England should have far too much for them if we play to our levels, and with the right intensity. I want to see us pressing from the front and making it really hard for them to get the ball out of defence.

Our players should be thinking “we are not going to underestimate you but we are a good side and we are going to come after you to show it”.

Obviously it would be nice to score some goals, get a bit of rhythm going and get everyone back behind the team before the knockout stages.

Graphic showing Group D at Euro 2020 after two games: 1st Czech Republic, 2nd England, 3rd Croatia & 4th Scotland
England need to beat the Czech Republic to finish above them in Group D. If they take top spot, they play the runners-up in Group F. If they finish second, they play the runners-up in Group E.

So, of course we want to win this game. The last thing you want to do is start over thinking where we might finish in the group and who we might get next – Groups E and F, where our next opponents are likely to come from, are all over the place anyway.

I certainly don’t think Southgate will be thinking anything other than let’s beat the Czechs, finish top of the group and stay at Wembley in the last 16.

That’s got to be the target, and I think we will get it – hopefully with a high-energy performance too. I want to see us win by having a go.

Danny Murphy was speaking to Asia Despatch Sport’s Chris Bevan.

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