Jordan Henderson says the jeers that have rung out as England players take the knee prove the fight against racism is far from over.
England’s decision to take a stand against racism and inequality prior to their Euro 2020 warm-up matches with Austria and Romania proved divisive with those in the Riverside Stadium, with boos ringing out on both occasions.
The row has overshadowed England’s build-up to the tournament, where they are among the favourites to win, and prompted manager Gareth Southgate to pen an open letter to supporters on Tuesday.
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England will not stop taking the knee, Southgate insists, meaning all eyes – and ears – will be on their Group D opener against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday.
Now vice-captain Henderson has echoed his manager’s views and said the players were determined to continue the fight against racism.
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“I think it shows that if there’s still people booing because we’re standing together against racism, then there really still is a problem and we’ve still got to fight it and stand together,” he said.
“It shows even more that we have to keep going, keep fighting it. From our side, it’s about being together and doing what we think is right.”
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He added: “We’ve made it very clear that we all stand together against racism. That’s the reason that we continue to take the knee.
The lads are starting to feel like they don’t really want to talk about it any more. Of course, everyone knows we stand together and you’ll see that in taking the knee, but we want to get on with the football and concentrate on that. That’s our focus.
Henderson, who missed a penalty on his return from a three-and-a-half month layoff against Romania on Sunday, also dismissed Roy Keane’s assertion that he is not fit.
Keane launched into a tirade on ITV about the 30-year-old prior to the Romania friendly.
“Clearly Jordan is not fit, I don’t think he should be involved,” Keane said. “He can’t be fit if he can’t start a game against Romania.
“Now I’ve heard people saying they want him around the place. For what? Does he do card tricks? Does he have a sing song, does he have quizzes in the evenings, what does he do?”
Henderson said he found the comments amusing and paid a special credit to Keane for handing him his debut at Sunderland.
“Yeah, and the card tricks he [Keane] was on about – I’ve got a few of them up my sleeve,” Henderson said.
“Listen, as a player you want to play and I’m not coming here just to be around the camp, like Roy was saying.
I want to come here and I want to contribute in the games. How much of that is not really down to me, it’s up to the manager to make a decision.
“But whenever I’m called upon, I’ll be ready and hopefully I can be a big contribution to this tournament and our success going forward.
“To be fair to Roy, he can say what he wants about me. He gave me my debut [at Sunderland] and I wouldn’t be here without him giving us that. He can say whatever he wants about me. I found it quite funny, actually.”
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