Mixed night for two ex-Sunderland men and where Liverpool's Jordan Henderson and Everton's Jordan Pickford feature in Gareth Southgate England plans
Two former Sunderland men returned to the North East last week as they joined up with England for their pre-Euro 2020 training camp in Middlesbrough – yet it’s been a mixed few days for Jordan Pickford and Jordan Henderson.
Pickford, 27, wasn’t included in the last England squad back in March due to an injury but looks set to be The Three Lions’ No 1 at this summer’s tournament – just like at the 2018 World Cup.
The Everton keeper played the full 90 minutes and kept a clean sheet during England’s 1-0 win over Austria at the Riverside Stadium – the first of two friendly matches before the main event.
Despite a relatively quiet evening, Pickford’s distribution from the back highlighted why he is Southgate’s first-choice option between the sticks.
The Sunderland-born stopper was comfortable with the ball at his feet and played some pinpoint passes for the hosts’ forward players.
There was a brief scare in the second half when substitute Ben Godfrey’s blind back pass almost resulted in a calamitous own goal, yet Pickford recovered to spare his team-mate’s blushes.
While his club form may have wavered this season, Pickford is trusted by Southgate after his previous performances for England. Hopefully the keeper can maintain his international form this summer.
As for Henderson, his lack of involvement was a concern.
The Liverpool captain was an unused substitute against Austria and hasn’t played a competitive match since February due to a groin issue.
“With Jordan we had hoped to involve him today, that was the original plan,” said Southgate after the match.
“This morning he wasn’t so happy with how he felt and we’ve scanned him just to be certain there’s no problem on the scan so he’ll be able to resume training, but we took the decision to leave him out of this game.”
Henderson’s leadership qualities and energy in midfield are attributes that are hard to replace, yet he’ll be entering the tournament from a standing start.
Can he really rediscover his best form with the tournament just over a week away?
Declan Rice appears to be a guaranteed starter for England’s opener against Croatia, while 17-year-old Jude Bellingham impressed against Austria.
Still, the absence of a full-fit Henderson would be a significant blow.