England manager Gareth Southgate said on Friday he does not pick his side based on “external reaction” as Jordan Henderson faces criticism for his decision to move to the Saudi Pro League.
The former Liverpool captain had been a vocal supporter of gay rights during his 12 years at Anfield.
However, Henderson’s move to the Gulf kingdom, where homosexuality is illegal, has seen an England LGBTQ fan group say they will turn their back on the pitch when he plays.
England face Ukraine in Wroclaw, Poland on Saturday in a Euro 2024 qualifier.
“I don’t pick the team based on external reaction,” Southgate said at his pre-match press conference
“Jordan expressed himself this week and he will be sad if that is how they felt. His feelings towards that community haven’t changed.
“As a team I am sure all of our fans will get behind the team when the game starts.”
Ukraine are expected to be roared on by 40,000 fans in Wroclaw, with many displaced across the border by Russia’s invasion.
England won the first meeting between the sides in Group C 2-0 in March, but Southgate is expecting a stiff test if the Three Lions are to maintain a 100 percent record in qualifying.
“I can’t talk on a broader perspective but football wise it is just a difficult game for us,” he added.
“They have players who have played in England and we know very well. We have to play our best to get the result we want.”
Should England complete the formality of qualifying, Harry Kane can look forward to playing in familiar surroundings in Germany next summer.
Tottenham’s all-time top goalscorer left the Premier League behind to join Bayern Munich last month and has made a fast start with three goals in three starts.
“The Euros are something at the back of our mind but we have to qualify first. I don’t like to think too far ahead but hopefully by next summer it will feel a little more like home,” said Kane.
But the England captain’s German is not clicking quite as quickly as his play on the field for the Bundesliga champions.
“It hasn’t really come along any further to be honest,” Kane confessed. “I am due to start lessons when I get back because the teacher was away for a little while.”
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