Kieran Trippier praised Jordan Henderson’s influence on and off the pitch after England’s vice-captain was booed by sections of the Wembley crowd.
Friday’s friendly against Australia saw the 33-year-old line-up on home soil for the first time since his controversial summer switch from Liverpool to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq.
Henderson has been a high-profile supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and last month apologised for any hurt he caused by moving to a country where homosexuality is illegal.
The stand-in skipper’s name was met by murmurs before kick-off and the midfielder ended up being booed when substituted, with boss Gareth Southgate left angry by a reaction he felt “defies logic”.
Long-standing international team-mate Trippier, who replaced Henderson, said: “I’m going to be honest I didn’t even notice it. I was obviously focused on coming on.
“But, listen, Hendo has how many caps? 80 odd caps I think it is that he’s represented England. For me, I see him on daily basis, he is an unbelievable character, he’s a leader. What he does for the team, playing or not playing.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t even recognise the reception because obviously I’m focused on my job to help the team cross the line and win.
“But for me all I can say on Hendo is he’s a great leader, an unbelievable person to have in the dressing room and I think 80 caps plus speaks for himself.
“On and off the pitch he’s a winner, the way he demands in training, the way he demands in games, in the dressing room before the games. He makes sure everyone trains properly, he sets standards and even myself at 33, when I look at him I follow it.
“That’s what you need. Hendo has got everything, he’s a great captain. So, to be honest, don’t think I need to say much about Hendo’s leadership.”
Pockets of England fans jeering their own is nothing new, with oft-criticised Harry Maguire booed by some supporters in their last Wembley friendly against Ivory Coast 18 months ago.
“For us, as players, we stick together,” Trippier said. “That’s the most important thing.
“We know how important Harry is, Hendo, or whoever it may be. The most important thing is us as a team, the staff, Gareth, everybody involved, we stick together. Internally, no problems. Everyone is calm and relaxed.
“It’s shown how much character players like Harry has got, another leader, doesn’t let anything faze him and he gets on with it. Whenever he plays, he plays with a smile on his face and he’s an unbelievable person. That’s the most important thing.”
England’s close-knit squad have bonded thanks to shared experiences, both good and bad, and can secure their place in a fourth major tournament under Southgate in Tuesday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy.
The group’s experienced core is complemented by up-and-coming stars, with none shining brighter than Jude Bellingham right now.
The 20-year-old has scored 10 goals in 10 appearances for Real Madrid having slotted seamlessly into life in the Spanish capital, where Trippier won the LaLiga title at rivals Atletico.
“At such a young age, with the maturity, the quality and the aggression he’s got, he’s frightening,” the Newcastle right-back said.
“If you play well there in Madrid, the fans will love you. It’s no surprise to me how he’s started there because Jude is frightening.
“Jude did unbelievable at Dortmund. He’s taken that experience with him. You see he’s playing with a freedom and the players around him are going to make his standards get even better. The most scary thing is he’s only 20 year old.”
Asked if he can be the difference between falling short and going all the way, Trippier said: “He can be the difference but if you look throughout the whole team, from 2018 to now we’ve taken massive steps.
“We lost in the Euros final, but the most important thing is we’re progressing, we’re doing very well. We’ve got players who can change games, we’ve got goals from all over the pitch.
“Jude, Madders (James Maddison), obviously Bukayo (Saka), Phil (Foden), they can change games in certain moments. They’re still young. Representing England is a big thing but these guys are playing at the top level.”