Jordan Henderson booed against Aston Villa in first club game in England since Saudi move | Football | Sport

Jordan Henderson was booed by the crowd at Villa Park ahead of Aston Villa’s crunch Europa Conference League clash against Ajax this evening. The 33-year-old, playing on English soil in a club match for the first time since abandoning his short stint in Saudi Arabia in January, was named in Ajax’s starting lineup, with a spot in the quarter-finals at stake.

Henderson received intense criticism for his decision to leave Liverpool for Saudi Pro League outfit Al-Ettifaq last summer, signing a three-year contract worth a reported £350,000-a-week.

He was accused of betraying the LGBTQ+ community by deciding to reunite with former team-mate Steven Gerrard, Al-Ettifaq’s manager, to play football in a country where homosexuality is illegal.

Henderson denied that the transfer was inspired by financial benefit but he wasn’t welcomed back warmly when appearing for England in last October’s 1-0 win against Australia.

The Wembley Stadium crowd booed and jeered the ex-Liverpool captain when he was substituted in the 62nd minute of the international friendly, for which he wore the armband.

After full-time, Henderson admitted he didn’t understand the reaction, while Gareth Southgate and Kieran Trippier publicly backed his decision to move to the Middle East.

Henderson cut his Saudi stay short in January, returning to European football by signing a two-and-a-half-year deal at Ajax.

Since joining the Dutch giants, he has started eight of nine games and was named in Southgate’s latest England squad for upcoming friendlies against Brazil and Belgium this afternoon.

But he was on the wrong end of a frosty reception on his latest return to England at Villa Park, with his brief spell in Saudi Arabia still fresh in many a memory as fans booed him every time he touched the ball.

Aston Villa brought a 0-0 draw back from the first leg in Amsterdam after a cagey contest in which both sides had just one shot on target.

Unai Emery’s side are vying to bounce back from a hugely disappointing Premier League collapse against top-four rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, losing 4-0 on home soil.

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