Why Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson would get my vote over Jordan Pickford for England – Sue Smith

FIRST-CLASS: Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson. Picture: James Wilson/Sportimage.
FIRST-CLASS: Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson. Picture: James Wilson/Sportimage.
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I have gone from being full of optimism about England’s chances of winning Euro 2020, to being concerned about them at both ends of the field.

Captain Harry Kane has suffered a bad hamstring injury and Marcus Rashford a double stress fracture of the back.

DOUBTFUL: England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves a penalty from Colombia's Carlos Bacca during the FIFA World Cup 2018, round of 16 match at the Spartak Stadium, Moscow. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA

DOUBTFUL: England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves a penalty from Colombia's Carlos Bacca during the FIFA World Cup 2018, round of 16 match at the Spartak Stadium, Moscow. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA

I am massively worried about Jordan Pickford’s form, too. A lot can change over the next few months but if the European Championships started tomorrow, I would have Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson in goal for England’s opening game.

Technically, Pickford is a very good goalkeeper and his distribution with his feet sets him apart. My concerns are his concentration, his decision-making, the amount of mistakes he is making and his confidence.

Pickford makes some fantastic saves but he can get drawn into shouting at the crowd and punching the air, and while it can sometimes work in your favour, at others I feel he takes it too far.

He is a very emotional player, and if you look at the very best goalkeepers in the world, you rarely see that.

Clean sheets are a collective effort but I have also been impressed by Henderson’s saves and his concentration. No wonder the Blades are keen to have him back for a third season on loan from Manchester United.

Sue Smith

You then start looking around to see which other English goalkeepers are playing well and I have been hugely impressed by Henderson.

The first thing that stands out is the number of clean sheets. His eight in this season’s Premier League is the joint best, along with Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel, Burnley’s Nick Pope and Watford’s Ben Foster, who has retired from international football.

Clean sheets are a collective effort but I have also been impressed by Henderson’s saves and his concentration. No wonder the Blades are keen to have him back for a third season on loan from Manchester United.

What I like the most is the way he bounced back from a bad error at Liverpool in September.

Henderson is uncapped, Pope has played just twice, and there are just two friendlies – against Italy and Denmark in March – before Gareth Southgate names his squad for the tournament.

Then again, Pickford only had three friendlies before the last World Cup, and was excellent there. If you are confident, I think you can carry that in.

As an attacker, I never put too much thought into the importance of a good relationship between the goalkeeper, centre-backs and holding midfielder, but, ideally, you want people who have played a lot together. Often in international football, though, you just have to get on with the situation you are presented with.

I would rather have an inexperienced but in-form goalkeeper than the opposite way around.

Drawing on my own experience, I can only think Kane and Rashford’s injuries have partly been caused by the amount of football they have played. When fit, they hardly ever miss games and are rarely substituted.

When I ruptured my anterior cruciate ligaments in 2012, I had come back on the Thursday from the Cyprus Cup, where England played four games in a week, straight into my Doncaster Rovers Belles debut on the Sunday. That was when I suffered the injury.

When the surgeon opened up my knee, he said there were no problems, no wear and tear, the injury was just down to fatigue. Without knowing all the details, you would have to think it is a factor with Kane and Rashford,too.

Hopefully, they can come back sharp and fresh in time for the tournament because otherwise England suddenly look light at No 9. Maybe Sheffield’s Jamie Vardy can be persuaded out of retirement but even he picked up an injury in midweek. Tammy Abraham turned his ankle going into an advertising hoarding against Arsenal.

Leicester City and Chelsea have not felt able to rotate those two much, either.

Beyond that, you are looking at Danny Ings, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Callum Wilson, but not so long ago the first two were not even sure of their club places.