Here are some things I know about Jordan Henderson.
Jordan Henderson joined Liverpool from Sunderland in the summer.
Jordan Henderson – and his mam – take good care of their teeth.
Jordan Henderson could do a decent job of playing a rising star in 1930s German politics in a middlebrow made-for-TV drama.
The rest is silence, or rather lots of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Ask a dozen Liverpool fans about Henderson and you’ll get thirteen different verdicts.
A fantastic prospect, the new Beckham, the new Gerrard, a waste of money, a nonentity, the new Biscan.
There’s a beautiful uncertainty about it all, a sense of something very rarely associated with English footballers – mystery.
In a football culture faithfully wedded to the idea of pigeon-holing players as early as possible, of kids playing 11-a-side on full-size pitches, taking each game as it comes, finding a role and sticking to it, Henderson is an oddity.
While we venerate youth, hyping sensations like Wayne Rooney before they’re old enough to drive, we also like to take them at face value, urging them to use the skills immediately apparent at the expense of developing a truly rounded game.
Some players thrive in these conditions, while others (Paul Scholes springs immediately to mind) are good enough, focused enough, to transcend the straitjacket of expectation and find their own path. Too many, though, cash in their chips early, settling for the natural groove in which they fit, until it becomes a rut and they’re surpassed by younger, better, more rounded players. This is the fate of the Jermaine generation – of Jenas and Pennant, and Defoe (Jermain in the latter case, if we’re being accurate). Sensationally gifted in some ways, their comfort zones have become their prisons, trapping them in a downward spiral of relative mediocrity when all three might have been so much better.
At 21, Henderson remains palpably a work in progress. This is a good thing – potentially a very good thing. It helps that, like Beckham, he does not have express pace or colossal size. Being neither little and nippy nor big and robust, Henderson is hard for the press to categorise. He’s emphatically not a Match of the Day player.
Much of the debate among fans has centred around whether Henderson is wasted on the right. Maybe so – at the moment it appears his best position is in a central role. That’s not to say he can’t develop in to a very competent right-sided midfielder. After all, Beckham has spent his entire career slightly out of position and he’s not done too badly out of it.
Even if we see Henderson as operating purely through the centre, it’s not clear whether that will be as an anchor man, a box-to-box merchant, an attacking midfielder or something else entirely.
That’s the most tantalising, exciting thing about Henderson. It feels like the Wearsider can be as good as he wants to be, as good as Liverpool can help him be, capable of both running and deciding a game, of making a position his own or operating as a high-class utility man.
Maybe this is premature – and perhaps there’s a bit of over-hyping going on right here. But Henderson is as intriguing a signing as Liverpool have made in years. Perhaps alone among our summer recruits, he’s also one for where we hope we might be going – the Champions League, title challenges, big days and bigger nights.
While in the summer it made a certain amount of sense to recruit players who could potentially help bridge the gap from sixth to fourth, Henderson reflects a longer-term vision and should be judged on that basis. In fact, it could be a mistake to judge him at all – the quietly-spoken kid who Roy Keane said had a ‘rare innocence’ has it in him to confound our every expectation before his Anfield career is done.