Sheffield United players urged to follow Dean Henderson’s example

In safe hands: England goalkeepers Nick Pope and Sheffield United's Dean Henderson warm up prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying match at the Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria.
In safe hands: England goalkeepers Nick Pope and Sheffield United's Dean Henderson warm up prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying match at the Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria.
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SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder believes that Dean Henderson’s senior England call-up has provided a potential window of opportunity for several of his Blades team-mates – if they maintain the high standards they have set in the Premier League.

The 22-year-old returned to training with the Blades – preparing for Monday evening’s glamour home appointment with Arsenal – yesterday morning following his involvement with the full England squad for the first time after Aston Villa’s Tom Heaton withdrew through injury.

If they get their club form right, then the rest takes care of itself.

Chris Wilder

Henderson was an unused substitute on the bench for the Euro 2020 qualifying games in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria and Wilder is challenging him to maintain his form to become a regular in Gareth Southgate’s squad.

The Cumbrian-born custodian, on a second season-long loan from Manchester United, became the first Blades player to be handed a place in the full England squad since Brian Deane in 1992.

Given the outstanding early-season form of the likes of Jack O’Connell and George Baldock, Unitedites are hoping that it could prove the precursor to future international involvement in the national team for the club.

Wilder said: “George and Jack have just got to keep playing well. The exposure the Premier League gets, they will not do themselves any harm, will they?

“If they get their club form right, then the rest takes care of itself.

“It was a fantastic experience for Dean. Now his challenge is to stay in the squad by playing very well for us.

“He has been outstanding for a long time, even though people might not think it, I am a big supporter of his.

“Dean is a confident boy, he backs himself to do well. He wants more and I love that attitude. It runs through my squad.

“These boys want to prove themselves. Some have had opportunities and others have not. But they feel this is where they can play their best football, at this club and in this division.”

Wilder has praised the reaction of England manager Gareth Southgate and his players following the sickening scenes which blighted the Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia on Monday night.

The game was stopped twice in the first half due to monkey chants and Nazi salutes from far-right Bulgarian hooligans.

Southgate, captain Harry Kane and several players gathered near the touchline before the interval after more audible abuse with an abandonment being a possibility – in line with Uefa’s three-step anti-racism protocols.

But Southgate and his players decided to play out the rest of the qualifier and let their football do the talking en route to a 6-0 victory.

Wilder said: “It was a terrible experience for everybody connected with the England set-up.

“I thought the players handled it outstandingly well, led by Gareth with the way he dealt with the situation. He was absolutely first-class.

“I am not surprised as he not just tactically excellent, but is also with the way he has managed a young group of players.

“His man-management with the group was first class and his feel of the situation was brilliant. They went through the protocol and made the right decision to let football do the talking.

“There are always different opinions as to if we walked off or stayed on. I think the right thing happened from what Gareth did and the players handled it magnificently.”

On punishment for Bulgaria following the shameful scenes, he added: “Something has got to happen with sanctions from Uefa and from a higher authority.

“It has to be stamped out and there has to be zero-tolerance to this type of behaviour.”

Wilder has revealed that he plans to utilise United’s break from action until Monday to give several players enough time to prove their fitness as possible.

Oliver McBurnie (knee) was forced out of Scotland’s recent squad with a slight knee issue, while John Fleck did not feature in Sunday’s game with San Marino at Hampden Park due to a hamstring niggle.

David McGoldrick has also been on the rehabilitation trail for the past few weeks with a groin injury, which ensured that he was not involved with the Republic of Ireland for their recent internationals.

Wilder added: “We have talked about how proud we are about players being involved on the international scene.

“We want as much time to prepare as possible and so it gives us as much chances as possible to prepare for that.

“We will give John and Oli, who had an issue with his knee, every opportunity to be available; David too.

“They are important players. Every day changes the situation.

“We cannot take risks on them. We cannot gamble with them, that is not fair on players. They have to complete a clearance session.”