DANNY Welbeck has backed Jordan Henderson to thrive on the international stage ahead of England’s dress rehearsal for the European U21 Championships.
Sunderland midfielder Henderson is expected to start England’s final friendly with Norway at Southampton’s St Mary’s on Sunday, with Stuart Pearce’s side facing their opening group game in the tournament seven days later.
Welbeck faces a less certain involvement in the Championships after only just returning to fitness from the hamstring injury which curtailed the final month of his season-long loan from Manchester United.
But Welbeck is confident his former Sunderland team-mate can shine after rediscovering his form in the closing stages of the campaign.
Henderson also starred in his last outing for the U21s as England romped to a 4-0 friendly victory against tournament host nation Denmark.
Welbeck told the Echo: “Both me and Jordan are looking forward to the tournament after getting picked for the squad.
“For the U21s, Jordan has really shown his ability to get on the ball and move it about. He’s done really well in the last couple of games.
“He can do well in the tournament and because of how he is, he can take control of most midfield battles.
“This tournament will benefit anybody who goes. There’s plenty of people who have the potential to cause damage on the big stage.
“Because of the quality of the players going, we’ve got a really good chance.”
England face Spain in their opening game on Sunday, June 12, before group matches against Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
Pearce’s men are the second-favourites for the tournament behind Spain and Henderson is looking forward to the prospect of testing himself against the pick of Europe’s youngsters.
The 20-year-old added: “I think it’s an experience that will benefit me and everyone else who goes.
“I’ve been looking forward to it ever since Sunderland’s last game at West Ham.”
The downside for Sunderland to Henderson being in the limelight, will be renewed speculation over the midfielder’s future.
Liverpool have already been linked with a £13million move for the Black Cats academy product this week and the rumours will continue about interest from the Premier League’s big boys.
Welbeck will also come under scrutiny, particularly with Manchester United tying fellow striker Michael Owen to another year’s contract and Dimitar Berbatov insisting he wants to stay at Old Trafford.
Sunderland have no chance of signing Welbeck on a permanent basis and Sir Alex Ferguson wants to run the rule over the 20-year-old during pre-season.
But if Owen and Berbatov are both staying with the Premier League champions, then Steve Bruce will retain some hope that Welbeck could return on another loan deal before the end of the August transfer window.