Wednesday, October 27

How Jordan Henderson and England’s ‘Tribal Elders’ Made Them a Force | England

IIt is the clip that does not stop getting a smile from the fans of England. Jordan Henderson is naked and ready to enter as a late substitute against Germany, but then he watches the play unfold; his pulse quickens, his eyes widen. If Jack Grealish can cross for Harry Kane …

“Go on,” Henderson yells. “Go on. H. Continues” Off shot, Grealish takes the center, Kane scores, England are 2-0 up, en route to the quarterfinals of Euro 2020 and Henderson starts with his arms raised to celebrate, before returning running to hug Gareth Southgate.

The roles were reversed to glorious effect Saturday night in Rome. Henderson was on the field this time, as a 57th-minute substitute for Declan Rice and, when he rose to lead England’s final goal in the 4-0 defeat of Ukraine, the first at this level on the occasion of their 62nd game. as international. it was the focal point of the frenzied celebrations.

“I loved the reaction on the bench because you could see that the younger players were totally delighted with Hendo,” Southgate said. “There is a lovely moment with Jude Bellingham [when they embrace]. Conor Coady was the first off the bench, leaping into the air, replicating Hendo’s header. I could see it while watching the video. “

This is what the holy grail of tournament management looks like: players on the sidelines making contributions, those off the field happy for them, fully supportive, prioritizing the collective. If a team in these finals is as strong as the attitude of its 26th member, England are in good shape for the semi-final against Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday.

It starts with Southgate and how he has supported his main players: the two Harrys, Maguire and Kane, Raheem Sterling and Henderson; the “elders of the tribe,” as the administrator called them on Sunday.

Do you remember Maguire’s previous meeting with Denmark at Wembley? It was the 1-0 defeat in the Nations League last October when he was sent off after 31 minutes to cap off a miserable start to the season, which had started with the notorious Mykonos episode. Southgate was by his side, reaching out to reassure him, just as he did during the central midfielder’s most recent break with an ankle injury. Maguire has been a tower of strength since returning to the team in the final group stage game against the Czech Republic.

The pattern has been the same with Kane and Sterling, Southgate took the unusual step to confirm the former’s starting place for the Czech tie 48 hours before kick-off despite his struggle to find his way into this tournament. Sterling endured the difficult final three months of the national season at Manchester City, but Southgate’s confidence in him did not waver. Kane has now found his touch, starring in two goals against Ukraine, while Sterling has been England’s best player in the final.

Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane celebrate the captain's third goal against Ukraine
Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane have repaid Gareth Southgate’s faith with three goals each at Euro 2020. Photograph: Kieran McManus / BPI / Shutterstock

Henderson’s situation has been slightly different and listening to Southgate on Sunday was to conclude that the Liverpool captain could never play a full role in the tournament as he underwent groin surgery in late February. However, it only seemed to shed an even more favorable light on what he has brought to the team; how a player who has lifted the Champions League has gone out of his way to support Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Bellingham and everyone else.

“Hendo has really accepted that this was going to be a different and difficult challenge, but he has totally thrown himself into it,” Southgate said. “When I spoke to him a few weeks before the first training camp, we talked about this scenario and he was convinced that he just wanted to be a part of it and contribute in any way he could.

“Within any team there is a core group that drives the team and I don’t think the importance of that can be underestimated. Team building is about much more than talent. It’s the relationships and the strength of those bonds. “

Southgate reflected on the length of the journey he has taken with some of his team, with Kane serving as a substitute in his first England Under-21 coach game in September 2013 against Moldova, while John Stones and Luke Shaw were the starters. -backs.

“Relationships have been building for a long, long period of time,” Southgate said, and they have done so on both bad and good times. Those steamy nights, for example, in Montenegro and Bulgaria when the team’s black players were racially abused from the stands.

“You can put scenarios in … we went to the army camp [for a team‑bonding exercise] and we did things that definitely helped. But the reality is that he’s going through the games together, going through those real-life experiences together and there are no shortcuts to that. “

It is not nirvana. There were 10 players who did not play against Ukraine and, in Southgate’s words, that “does not mean that everyone in the camp is excited and happy. As much as they give themselves to the team, you’re never going to have everyone in a perfect individual place and feeling fulfilled. But I think they recognize what has been built. “

Perhaps that was why Southgate was so interested in the immediate aftermath of the victory to pay tribute to Coady and Ben Chilwell, Sam Johnstone and Aaron Ramsdale, “the ones who make this team successful.”

Leading from the front, setting the tone for the younger generation, have been Maguire and Kane, Sterling and Henderson, and a reflection of their importance is that they have scored all eight of the team’s goals between them. It is far from the only one.

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