Henderson backed over England Under-21 call-up
Steve Bruce believes Jordan Henderson could have done with a rest earlier this year, but he is ready to break the growing trend set by his managerial counterparts by giving his Sunderland midfielder the go-ahead to play through the summer. Henderson has already played 32 matches for the Black Cats this season, on the back of reaching 38 in his first full campaign as a key member of Steve Bruce's squad last time around. His role as a pivotal figure in the Sunderland team at such an early age earned him his first England cap in November, but he has been unable to consistently reach the heights that got him to that point in the six months since. But with a series of injuries to key midfielders, Bruce was unable to give the 20-year-old the rest he felt he could have done with just before the turn of the year. However, with Henderson expecting to start again at Manchester City tomorrow, Bruce is not prepared to go down the route of a couple of Premier League rivals and contemplate asking the Football Association to overlook him for England Under-21s duty this summer. Arsene Wenger and Kenny Dalglish have already suggested they have serious reservations about risking Jack Wilshere and Andy Carroll at the European Championships. But Bruce feels Henderson should be allowed to join up with Stuart Pearce's squad shortly after Sunderland have ended the season with a trip to West Ham on May 22. "It's a big European tournament. To win it we need our best players. In the long term I could be selfish and say he needs a rest, but if we are going to do anything as a nation then we need our best players there," said Bruce. "It is an awkward one for the manager because I would have him on a beach somewhere, but it's not going to happen. "My priority is to Sunderland but if we are to do anything as a nation then we have to take our best players to these tournaments. Every other country will. Sergio Busquets is going with Spain because they take pride in their nation. I am all for picking your best team and then when the tournament is finished - like last year after the World Cup - give the players time off. Playing for your country is what football is all about, isn't it" It means that Henderson's summer schedule will consist of an under-21s friendly before heading to Denmark for a competition that starts on June 11. England face Spain, Ukraine and the Czech Republic in Group B and hope to progress to the final stages in late June. Henderson is due to play at the City of Manchester Stadium, the venue where he scored his first Premier League goal for Sunderland in a 4-3 defeat 15 months ago. He has scored just one goal since. "He always scores for England (under-21s), maybe Stuart Pearce says something different to what I do," said Bruce. "If Jordan is to be what we want him to be then he has to add goals to his locker. "All the great players can score from midfield and when he trains he scores, he can finish, he doesn't flap. He just has to learn when to get in to the box. He is only 20 and he has still a lot to learn. "It was a shame that he has not played for England since his first senior cap because he was part of a team that played France which was inexperienced. His time will come again, I'm sure." With Bolo Zenden and Lee Cattermole back from injuries, Bruce has options in midfield against City as they look to claim a first win in seven - even though Kieran Richardson is sidelined. It was in the win over Manchester City in August when Fraizer Campbell picked up the knee injury that sidelined him until now. "The elation lasted five minutes that day because when we got back to the dressing room we discovered Fraizer had ruptured his knee ligaments," said Bruce, who also has Michael Turner in the squad again. "It's great that he will be back and involved on Sunday. Turner and Campbell have been big misses." Sunderland are looking to inflict a third home defeat on City that could lift the Black Cats to seventh, knowing their six-point advantage over the relegation zone could have been reduced later today.
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