International football is a brutal game, and not just when you’re watching Scotland (only joking, friends).

In a playing sense, if you’re out of sight then, might not be out of mind, but you’re certainly out of the picture.

As such, it barely merited comment that another England squad was announced yesterday with no place in it for Dean Henderson.

No alarms, no surprises. It is, after all, more than a year since he last played a Premier League game, while his solitary Three Lions appearance is over 18 months in the past.

The west Cumbrian, then, was hardly going to be sat at home on Tuesday morning, staring at his phone, waiting for Gareth Southgate to deliver the good news.

As expected, Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope and Aaron Ramsdale got the goalkeeping berths for the Nations League games against Hungary, Germany and Italy, and this, for Henderson, is a keeper’s lot when he spends so much time on the second rung.

He has been back-up to David de Gea at Manchester United for the entirety of 2021/22, making only three cup appearances (and even one of those had the feel of exhibition stuff, given Henderson cheerfully made way for the veteran Tom Heaton after 68 minutes against Young Boys).

A long season can make it easy to forget that, only a year or so ago, Henderson had done remarkable things at a relatively young goalkeeping age: a lad from Whitehaven, already No1 at one of the biggest clubs in the land. An heir to Schmeichel, Van der Sar and co…and one of our own.

It is, in itself, a tribute to Henderson’s rise that, at 25, he can now be biting his fists in frustration at being regarded as the second-best goalkeeper at Manchester United since then.

News and Star: Henderson has fallen behind David de Gea at Old Trafford (photo: PA)Henderson has fallen behind David de Gea at Old Trafford (photo: PA)

And yes - these are, sometimes, the breaks. Manchester United may not have performed like an elite club this season but, in certain respects at their level, the bar still remains enviably high.

Henderson, thanks to an untimely Covid infection last summer, has been up against it since. Such a risk is ever present at the peaks of the club game. And that’s fine. This last campaign has been a different sort of experience to put in the pocket. Often the best examinations of character are, after all, the unwanted ones.

There is no reason he won’t be better for it. But now, surely, is the time to find out.

A season without first-team football is a season enough for a player of Henderson’s ability and status. If that won’t happen at Old Trafford next season, it’s surely time to move on.

News and Star: Henderson's move from Carlisle to Man Utd in 2011 could benefit the Blues financially should he now be sold (photo: Mike McKenzie)Henderson's move from Carlisle to Man Utd in 2011 could benefit the Blues financially should he now be sold (photo: Mike McKenzie)

This is not an appeal made predominantly with Carlisle United’s bank balance in mind. Yes, a permanent transfer for Henderson has the potential to deliver highly welcome revenue into the Blues’ coffers by way of a sell-on clause.

Nobody can ignore the ramifications of that. It’s probably not lost on Henderson himself, given his long-standing affection for his former club, reflected in his keenness to sponsor a recent legends game at Brunton Park. At the same time, one of the Blues' co-owners, Steven Pattison, last night said it would be more lucrative for Carlisle if Henderson returned to the Man United first team for the long run.

Let’s not, though, reduce the man to the role of cash cow. Everything about Henderson’s progress to date has suggested at a special Cumbrian career, and so his fate ought to be seen in that nobler context too.

READ MORE: Carlisle United owner: how Dean Henderson staying at Manchester United could benefit Blues more

It is for reasons of local pride, and eagerness to see a bright young player at his best, that we need to see him performing again: back exhibiting the character that’s been on show at most stages of his young career, demonstrating the ability that did, after all, earn him that full England cap in November 2020 and the right to call himself Manchester United’s first-choice for a spell.

News and Star: Henderson has one senior England cap to his name so far (photo: PA)Henderson has one senior England cap to his name so far (photo: PA)

Henderson was, not too long back, at the front of the national conversation regarding goalkeepers. He was Southgate’s second choice at Euro 2020 behind the excellent Pickford until an injury ended his tournament prematurely.

Doubtless he will not have vanished from the head coach’s notepad since then. Southgate will surely be just as intrigued to see the Cumbrian back in the front rank at club level. The World Cup in Qatar is a few months away, and a bold reintroduction to Premier League action for Henderson would surely still give him a chance.

The bigger picture gives him ample time to show his credentials. The contest to be seen as England’s leading custodian is, though, an unforgiving one, and each squad that’s named without him underlines that fact in thick red pen.

Southgate’s latest 27 offers excitement for various players. It rewards the new call-ups, James Justin and Jarrod Bowen.

It respects the burgeoning form of Fikayo Tomori and the goalscoring exploits of Tammy Abraham. It nods to the emergence of Marc Guehi among others. Young careers, on the right path, significantly with ample first-team football behind them.

Henderson, then, has done his time in the shadows. It’s time he was back among these peers, back jostling with best in the land. Newcastle – his strongest suitors right now – ought to offer a suitable stage.

For several and obvious reasons, the bench can no longer be the place for one of our very best.

READ MORE: Newcastle United's Eddie Howe on reports about move for Manchester United's Dean Henderson