Henderson retains captaincy as Southgate calls for Wembley backing

Jordan Henderson will lead England out for the crucial World Cup qualifier against Slovakia at Wembley on Monday night, where manager Gareth Southgate wants his players to bring the crowd to their feet.

Liverpool midfielder Henderson led the team in Malta on Friday, where a 4-0 victory margin flattered an England side whose disappointing performance was booed by some travelling fans.

But with England knowing victory will take them to the brink of a place in next year’s finals in Russia, Southgate wants his stars to raise their game for the occasion.

Victory would take Southgate’s team five points clear of Slovakia with two games to play, and he is hoping to see a vibrant England display.

He said there was “no point in changing” the captaincy, even though he has yet to appoint a full-time skipper following Wayne Rooney‘s international retirement, so Henderson keeps the armband.

And Southgate added: “I t’s a great opportunity for us, a home game. W e are playing good opposition so we’ve got to make sure we are tactically prepared, which we will be, but also we’ve got to have belief in the team that we’ve got.

“We’ve got some exciting players and we want to show that.

“We know the task we have; we know the opportunity. The whole country wants to be at a World Cup.

“It’s a great opportunity for the Wembley crowd to get behind us as well.

“We have a r esponsibility to get them on their feet. But equally everywhere we go around the world, the opposition crowds really give the team a lift.

“This result can virtually get us to Russia so everybody wants that and it would be great if we get the level of support that I know that stadium can bring.”

England needed a last-gasp Adam Lallana strike to beat Slovakia 1-0 in Trnava last year.

One year to the day since that match, since when Southgate has replaced Sam Allardyce as England boss, the teams will go head-to-head again in London.

Southgate added: “We’ve got to assume Slovakia aren’t going to come here and open up and make it easy for us.

“It’s apparent they’ve got some good footballers and who knows the way the game is going to flow? We have to be adaptable in the way that we perform.

“We know how we want to play. We’ve got an opponent that’s going to want to stop us.

“We’d all love to score early and be three up by half-time. On some occasions that happens but it’s not very often. So then you’ve got to prepared to be patient and work your openings.

“We believe the players are becoming more and more savvy to the challenges of international football.”

After 17-year-old Ben Woodburn made a stunning debut for Wales on Saturday, scoring the winner on his debut against Austria, Southgate was reminded the Chester-born youngster was once courted by England.

But Woodburn made an early commitment to Wales, representing the country at youth levels before being handed his chance on the big stage.

Asked if he was a player England missed out on, Southgate said: “I’m responsible for most things, (but) I’m not responsible for that. But we have lots of kids who are dual nationality in our programme and it’s increasingly difficult to monitor all of them.

“You can’t pick all of them at younger ages. He’s one that did train with us in some of the junior ages.

“But some of the countries are able to fast-track them more quickly and of course that appeals to some of the kids, and also some will feel their heart belongs to other countries, so that’s personal choice and we wish him well.”

Source: PA

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