Rico Henry has been a key part of Brentford’s rise in recent years, he is now outscoring, crossing and dribbling England’s top left backs and could be close to a debut for Gareth Southgate’s side in the upcoming international break
- English left back Rico Henry has impressed for Brentford since joining in 2016
- Thomas Frank has tipped the 25-year-old full back for an England debut
- Gareth Southgate is short on left backs with Luke Shaw out of favour at United
- No English left back had more crosses from open play than Henry last season
It was in the late 1930s that Brentford last saw one of their players represent England.
Could that long wait end in some style with a double call-up? That will certainly be the hope as it is not just in-form striker Ivan Toney who has been enhancing his claims but left-back Rico Henry too.
Bees manager Thomas Frank was talking up Henry’s credentials last season, saying: ‘He will get his England debut.
English left back Rico Henry has impressed for Brentford since arriving at the club in 2016
‘It’s very difficult to get top players in the position Rico plays. He needs to continue developing but he’s lightning quick, his one-on-one defending is fantastic, he’s full of energy down the left side and now he’s added goals to his CV. He’s an interesting left back and I understand if England look at him.’
The continuation of Henry’s consistent, high-level performances this term will have done nothing to alter Frank’s view about the 25 year-old’s prospects.
And Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate has indeed been able to have a look and form his own opinion of Henry having been present at a number of Brentford games, including the recent draw against Everton, a game containing a number of potential England candidates.
Bees manager Thomas Frank has tipped the 25-year-old full back for an England debut
It would be no surprise if Henry has made his way onto the radar especially with the position being one of concern for England.
Of the most established members of Southgate’s setup Luke Shaw has dropped down the Manchester United pecking order while Ben Chilwell is now back in action after missing most of last season with a serious knee injury.
It has not been uncommon for Southgate to deploy right backs such as Kieran Trippier and even Reece James on the opposite flank to deal with his left-back dilemma.
Southgate has also assessed Crystal Palace’s Tyrick Mitchell and called up versatile duo, Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters and Leicester’s James Justin, who have operated at left-back, in recent times.
Gareth Southgate is short on cover at left back with Luke Shaw out of favour at United
At Brentford, and in other quarters too, there is a genuine belief that Henry has emerged as a more than credible and natural alternative to all other options at Southgate’s disposal.
The stats support that with Henry comparing favourably in a number of attacking categories when lined up against his fellow English left backs/wingbacks.
Alongside that, his one vs one defending is one of the strongest parts of his game, with his speed and how difficult he makes it for opponents to escape him earning comparisons with some of the best attributes of Kyle Walker or his idol Ashley Cole.
Henry is well used to the Cole comparisons by now having been labelled the new version of one of England’s greatest defenders since he was a teenager at Walsall.
No English left back had more goals or crosses from open play than Henry last season
That is where Brentford signed him from in 2016 and he has overcome a dislocated shoulder and serious knee injury since then to become one of their most important players.
After battling back from those setbacks, Henry now possesses a robustness, physically and mentally, which have helped him become a player reliable enough to perform week-in, week-out, with regular football then enabling him to continue developing.
In terms of starts, he was Brentford’s fourth most-selected player in the Premier League last season.
Brentford currently sit eighth in the Premier League and have had some impressive wins
And, with Henry rising to every new challenge as he has climbed from League One to the top flight, it was also considered his best ever season, at the highest level he has ever played up against the toughest wingers he would have faced on a consistent basis.
England would be another step up, but one Henry would understandably relish.
‘Representing your country is everybody’s dream and you want to do it at a big stage as well with the seniors,’ he said in April. ‘Hopefully in the future it may come.’
Ivan Toney is another Brentford player who could be close to making his England debut
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