Jordan Henderson admits he will owe fellow Sunderland boy Jordan Pickford for the rest of his life after missing in England’s dramatic shootout triumph over Colombia – but is willing to take another World Cup spot-kick if required.
Henderson was the only Englishman who failed to convert from 12 yards on Tuesday night in Moscow, Arsenal’s David Ospina guessing correctly and palming away a cleanly-struck effort.
At that moment the Liverpool captain looked set to join the likes of Chris Waddle, David Batty, David Beckham and current manager Gareth Southgate himself as a fall guy for another English disappointment.
Mateus Uribe shot against the bar to put England back on an even keel but it took a brilliant save from Pickford, denying Carlos Bacca, to pave the way for victory.
Henderson and Pickford were born just a few miles apart and though they never crossed paths in the Sunderland first team and now reside on opposite sides of the Mersey divide, they will forever be linked by events at Spartak Stadium.
“I thanked him, I can’t thank him enough, I’m forever in his debt. He says the Mackems stick together!” revealed Henderson.
“You obviously fear the worst when you miss the penalty but Pickers has done brilliantly with the save. We’re a really close group, I think you can see that.
“It’s difficult when you miss and nothing can be said that’s going to make it alright but it’s not about me, it doesn’t really matter now, we won and that’s the main thing.”
Henderson was already starting to blank out his missed attempt and indicated a willingness to step up again – if allowed.
“I can hardly remember it,” he said. “Maybe it was a good height for the keeper if anything, it needed to be higher or lower but in penalties you can miss or there can be a good save. Thankfully the lads dug me out.
“It wouldn’t put me off but it might put Gareth off! I’d take another one but obviously it’s down to the manager and I would understand if he chose someone else.”
Pickford was simply pleased for the chance to bail Henderson, and the team, out of a hole.
“He said to me ‘well done you fellow Mackem’. I said ‘Jesus, I’ve helped you out there lad’,” the Everton keeper added.
“That’s team-mates isn’t it? A bit of craic. We’re together, when one goes down we’ve got to pick them back up. I just got down to business really. I trusted my instinct and went that way…..strong hands, I’m happy.”
“It was a timely intervention from Pickford after he was scrutinised for failing to keep out Belgium’s winner last week, using the same technique which paid off handsomely in the shootout.
“I used my top hand…I get criticised about the top hand but I don’t think I’ll be getting criticised about it now,” he said.
Just as it did on Tuesday night, the last word belonged to Eric Dier.
The Tottenham man struggled to make an impact during the group stages but now goes down as the first Englishman to convert a winning penalty – the solitary previous success having been settled by a David Seaman save against Spain in 1996.
Dier would probably not have been used had Jamie Vardy been fully fit but took his chance.
“I can’t remember when I last took one in a match,” he said.
“While you’re waiting to take it it’s nerve-wrecking but when I went up I was quite calm. It was very nervous while I was waiting but once I went up there I was alright.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling to have won one on penalties. It takes you over.”