- Jordan Henderson has captained England on several occasions
- Liverpool man is one of Gareth Southgate's leaders, on and off the pitch
- Follow our Live Blog building up to #COLENG with our team correspondents
By Laure James with England
Jordan Henderson has emerged as one of England’s most influential players at Russia 2018, but as he revealed to FIFA.com, even leaders have to keep their emotions in check.
The Liverpool midfielder, who celebrated his 28th birthday on 17 June, says he has experience to share in the camp, yet in the moments before a FIFA World Cup™ match, the national anthem leaves a lump in his throat.
“You've got to be careful with the anthem,” Henderson said, nodding thoughtfully. “I remember the first time, when I made my debut, I got a little bit emotional in that bit. And it doesn't help. It doesn't help at all, because you’re going straight into a game and all sorts is going through your head. Now, I still sing it with everything, with my heart. But as soon as it’s done, the game's ready and I'm ready to go, so you can’t get too emotional and too caught up in it.”
Henderson, who has impressively marshalled his teammates during the group stage, clearly takes his responsibilities as one of the senior players seriously.
“I feel a bit older, because there are so many young lads around us in the squad,” he admits. “But I feel as though I have a good balance of experience and still that youth.
“I still feel young, I'm just 28 but feel about 24, so I feel as if I'm in a good position. I’ve past experience which can help us but I still feel good. My body still feels very good physically and mentally I feel as if I am in a very good place and hopefully I can just continue that.”
Now into the knockout stage, the media narrative has focused on penalties, and how to break the English curse. For the squad, however, it’s been an integral part of training since March.
“We have been practising them for a while now,” Henderson said. “Penalties is obviously a tough thing but as a player you just have to focus on what's important in that situation if it comes, you just have to go through the process of what you’ve done in training and not think too much about the outcome.
“It’s a huge honour to represent England," Henderson concluded. "When we see the videos afterwards of people celebrating and the enjoyment we can bring to the country, we feel as if we can bring the country together for those 90 minutes. It's a special feeling and I hope we can do that again on Tuesday."