Jordan Henderson yesterday declared himself ready to be thrust into the thick of England’s European Championship campaign if Roy Hodgson’s worst fears about his central midfield are realised.
Hodgson admitted on Monday he was not certain Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker could continue to play every four days in Poland and Ukraine.
That could see Henderson thrown in at the deep end in either tomorrow’s second Group D game against Sweden or Tuesday’s final match against Ukraine.
The Liverpool midfielder, who replaced Parker for the final 13 minutes of Monday’s opening 1-1 draw with France, said: “I will be ready if I am needed.”
However, Henderson played down the prospect of that occurring any time soon, having watched Gerrard and Parker in close quarters on Monday.
“Steve and Scotty did very well in there,” said the 21-year-old, who earned his fourth cap in Donetsk.
“I think they’re both fit enough to last the full game but I was delighted to get on for the last 15 minutes.
“I had to treat it like any other game. It was another amazing experience for me.”
It was an experience Henderson would not have enjoyed but for the injuries that ruled Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry out of Euro 2012.
Even after that, there was a backlash against Henderson’s elevation over the likes of Michael Carrick, so badly had he been adjudged to have performed in his debut season at Liverpool.
“There has been a lot of criticism but that is part and parcel of football - it doesn’t bother me,” said the former Sunderland star, who cost in the region of £17million.
He added of England’s injury jinx: “There have been a few changes, but changes I was pleased with.
“I wanted to come away with the squad. I have been able to do that.
“The last 12 months have gone quickly, but I am delighted to be in the squad. Now I want to try and get myself in the team.”
Doing so against Sweden or Ukraine would be the perfect early or late birthday present for Henderson, who turns 22 on Sunday.