Liverpool News

Blocked with England, Southgate does not clarify situation with Liverpool

Southgate must disregard a couple of January transfers, with Henderson's move now finalized.

By Charles Cornwall

Southgate must disregard a couple of January transfers, with Henderson's move now finalized.
Southgate must disregard a couple of January transfers, with Henderson's move now finalized.
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These were the immortal words of Roy Keane when he questioned the inclusion of Jordan Henderson in Gareth Southgate’s Euros squad back in 2021. At the time, the Liverpool captain was struggling for fitness, and the famously blunt pundit was unimpressed with claims the midfielder would be good to have ‘around the place’. Henderson has no fitness worries now, but perhaps Keane’s concerns could be rehashed. The 33-year-old has looked off the pace when Southgate has called him up this season, having spent the last six months in Saudi Arabia.

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Of course, the latest development for Henderson is a transfer to Ajax, no doubt with at least half an eye on the summer's Euro 2024 squad. As things stand, he remains odds-on to receive a call-up from Southgate. Despite the scathing assessment of the former Manchester United midfielder, there is undoubtedly a benefit to having personalities in the dressing room, and one thing Southgate has done well with England is to build a real sense of unity. Henderson proved his leadership credentials, and indeed his quality, across his time at Liverpool. But he is just one example of where the manager's loyalty might now have gone too far.

In fact, the continued inclusion of Kalvin Phillips might be even more egregious than the repeated selection of Henderson. Manchester City is in a different stratosphere to Al-Ettifaq, but that’s a moot point when the former Leeds man can hardly get a competitive kick of the ball. The first half of the season has been damning for Phillips in terms of his prospects at the Etihad. Although Manchester City has missed Rodri on multiple occasions, struggling badly in his absence, Pep Guardiola has still been hugely reluctant to turn to the man he signed last year. The midfielder now looks to follow Henderson and finally seek a transfer away in January, but that shouldn't significantly move the dial for Southgate.

Injuries have played their part since he joined, but Phillips has barely seen competitive action now for the best part of 15 months. Henderson has been playing, but it was clear even at Liverpool that his levels had dropped, and a transfer from Al-Ettifaq to Ajax won't change that. Southgate, so good at establishing a pathway for young players when he first took the England job, has tied himself in knots with loyalty to the group, and it’s now harming the prospects of up-and-coming talents.

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Southgate thinks about it

Slightly less of an obvious pick for Southgate, he still warrants some serious consideration. Like his teammate, he could rightly feel more deserving of a call-up than Henderson or Phillips. He’s not been a regular starter for Liverpool so far this season, but nobody had a longer run of consecutive appearances in Klopp’s side last campaign, and still he never seemed to show up on Southgate’s radar. Ultimately, the proof will be in the results for Southgate and England. As for the Liverpool duo, perhaps they need to start learning card tricks.

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