IN the summer of 2012 Jordan Henderson was at the Liverpool exit door after a difficult first season under Kenny Dalglish following a move from Sunderland reported to be worth £20million.
That Brendan Rodgers was prepared to offload the then 22-year-old midfielder — with barely a sense of what Henderson might offer in a Red shirt — to assist a move for Fulham’s Clint Dempsey (now with Seattle Sounders in the MLS) seems all the more remarkable now. Three years on, as the unassuming Wearside lad assumes the Liverpool captaincy from the departed Steven Gerrard, he has the endorsement of both Rodgers and the ex-skipper ringing in his ears.
While Brendan is on record — in one of his oft lamented, business-speak sound bites — saying Henderson “represents the best values of what we are all about as a team and as a club”, a more telling and encouraging insight comes from Gerrard, the man who passes over the armband.
“I certainly believe Jordan has everything you need to be a great captain. He’s a fantastic professional who tries to lead by example in every training session and in every game. He has really grown as a player and is improving all the time with experience. He can become a great captain for this club. He’s a fantastic player for me to hand the armband over to. I’ve got great respect for Jordan Henderson and I know everyone else at the club feels the same.”
From what we see of Henderson on the pitch; a never-say-die attitude allied to endless running and commitment and no little skill, Gerrard’s tribute hardly comes as surprise, but it is important approval nonetheless. For some supporters, Henderson’s promotion is symbolic of Liverpool’s continuing decline and a team roster that, in theory, for 2015-16 boasts not a single star name.
By comparison with some former captains; the likes of Gerrard, Sami Hyypia, Graeme Souness, Emlyn Hughes and Ron Yeats, Henderson still has a long way to go before fulfilling the role of Liverpool icon whether through force of personality or a dominating on-field presence. Reflective of the size of the task at hand in winning over the naysayers, Henderson’s recent inclusion alongside Lionel Messi on the cover of (the UK Version of) FIFA 16 has met only with endemic sarcasm and derision; the prevailing wind emanating from the depressed Anfield stands — before a ball has even been kicked under his captaincy.
If there is a sense that the majority remain to be convinced, and that many are underwhelmed at the prospect of Henderson leading out the Reds on a permanent basis, his appointment is inextricably linked with the departure of Gerrard and the overwhelming feeling that Rodgers’ management is in the last chance saloon. However, most fair observers will agree that Henderson’s development as a player over four seasons at Anfield is deserving of his elevation to club captain. As cantankerous as the crowd can be, they will give him a chance.
From the travails of that first season under Dalglish, when the hefty price tag weighed heavy and he fulfilled an alien, unselfish role on the periphery of midfield, Henderson has — literally and metaphorically — made great strides. His decision, in the wake of the Dempsey debacle and Rodgers’ hasty judgement of his worth, to stay and fight for his place was vindicated, and by the second half of the manager’s debut season he had become a regular starter.
His deployment throughout the following, memorable 2013-14 campaign as a pressing, attacking midfielder saw his energy assist Liverpool’s quick transitions to Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling and at the same time offer a shield to Gerrard’s deeper-lying defensive midfield role. When tiredness saw him overstretch and receive a crucial red card towards the end of the epic victory over Manchester City in April 2014, hindsight tells us that Liverpool’s title dreams disappeared with him down the Anfield tunnel.
Last season, although shifted around and occasionally played deeper and sometimes wider as Rodgers grappled with different systems, he was one of the few who could claim to have kept his standards relatively high level throughout a trying campaign. Tellingly, when Gerrard missed a chunk of the season through rest and injury after Christmas, Henderson captained the Reds during their best run of form which saw 13 unbeaten league games.
Morale was at its height during this period which promised a genuine challenge to claim a place in the top four after an appalling autumn. Henderson visibly grasped the nettle with a series of strong performances, symbolised by a swashbuckling opener against Manchester City at Anfield, and a scruffy, ricocheted winner at Swansea which — by contrast — was all down to persistence and determination.
Despite a growing assurance; if there was a valid criticism of Henderson, it was that he consistently appeared too deferential in the presence of Gerrard; happy to assume a perfunctory role. During 2013-14 this became less of an issue as they effectively played in different areas of the pitch, Henderson pressing ahead as an auxiliary attacker while Gerrard operated with aplomb from deep.
Throughout last season with Gerrard, when fit, restored to a more conventional central role, Henderson too often went missing, none more so than at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. By contrast, with Gerrard absent against Burnley at Anfield in March, a Kop end volley to open the scoring and a raking 40-yard assist to Daniel Sturridge were reminiscent of the atrophying skipper at his best.
Now though Henderson can be entirely his own man. While Gerrard’s playing star was falling, his stock as an ambassador and a leader was the compensating force and Jordan will surely have learnt from such mentoring. At the age of 25 and with four Anfield seasons under his belt, he boasts the right amount of experience in a squad that is packed with the young and/or the untested. His work ethic — those endless shuttles during the 90 minutes and the famed Melwood overtime — is perfect for setting of the highest professional example to this year’s cluster of new recruits. Jordan Henderson will lead from the front.
The hiring of James Milner as a potential sidekick in midfield could prove to be a masterstroke. A no-nonsense, experienced presence with cadence and rhythm to match the mileage of Henderson, gives Liverpool’s attacking midfield a solid yeoman base. Milner also comes with a trophy-winning mentality — something of which the Liverpool dressing room is undeniably short.
While Milner is more roundhead than cavalier, and if Henderson’s detractors can rightly point to an occasional lack of flair, the counterbalance comes in the potential trickery of those ahead. The immediate supply line to Christian Benteke, Daniel Sturridge et al is an area of the field where Liverpool are well-stocked with creative talent. If Henderson and Milner are charged with carrying the piano then the likes of Coutinho, Firmino, Ibe and Lallana can tickle the ivories to their hearts’ content.
That said, to pigeonhole Henderson purely as a workhorse is to somewhat damn him with faint praise. He is capable of far more than putting in 100 per cent effort, as his occasional, sometimes spectacular goals will testify. Henderson’s biggest challenge is combining the new-found responsibility of captaincy with his own evolution as a footballer. There is a brooding sense that he sometimes plays within himself; that there is a lot more to come. For all that he represents the epitome of the modern player — power, pace, fitness; sobriety even — Jordan Henderson has only scratched the surface of his talent. One wonders whether leadership and the confidence it should bring will allow him to fully express his gifts.
However crestfallen we might have been to witness departures over the years of those exotic names; Torres, Alonso, Mascherano, and Suarez and see them grace the European stage for their new employers, for Henderson and Liverpool it might be an advantage to forge an entirely new identity based on the team ethic. Beginning a new era with a “team of no stars” is perhaps the perfect environment for an assured Jordan Henderson to assume his new role and stamp a fresh, untainted authority on the club. For Henderson and, perhaps even more so, for Brendan Rodgers opportunity knocks. Strong men relish such opportunity and for the new skipper and a beleaguered manager, this season could represent the defining season of their careers.
Carragher and Gerrard have gone. The “Scouse Heart” has finally packed up. The errant Sterling has fled — his tail firmly between his legs. Luis Suarez is an increasingly distant memory of the year we “nearly won the league”.
It’s time to move on. The Kop has always loved its heroes, and there is undoubtedly a vacuum to be filled. But let’s not obsess over individuals. It’s a team game after all and we’ve now got the ultimate team man tossing the coin. He’s capable of a lot more besides.
Here’s to you, Jordan Henderson.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Plenty of words now here is the reality: Henderson spends the entire summer promoting himself to be on the FIFA cover?! Claims he’s haunted by the Stoke defeat yet signs up to Twitter and Instagram and is busily posting selfies?! Hardly behaviour fitting of a Liverpool captain. He’s another media coached brand Beckham wanna-be. As far as his own on pitch performances he’s not exactly Souness or Emlyn who dragged teams into trophy winning positions.
I think i might read “the plenty of words” as the “reality” is nonsense.
He’s sent 120 odd tweets in 4 months. 1 Tweet per day and less than 10 selfies in total. Less than a third the amount of posts Gerrard made. Was he a fitting Liverpool captain? Hendo is contractually obligated to promote certain things – getting on to the cover of FIFA with “NB” upon his shirt is one of those things. Thats just modern football. He’s nothing like Brand Beckham, which was personally driven.
And he’s isn’t a Souy or a Crazy Horse – those players who are both exceptional as both a footballer and a leader come along extremely rarely at one football club.
I think we’ll see more of the same from Jordan in 15/16. He was much better when Steven didn’t play which is both a positive and a negative. A positive in that Gerrard is no longer here meaning he will perform more consistently. A negative in that there is a weakness in his psychological make-up that may (or may not) rear its ugly head in the future.
As a footballer, he’s a good player, on his day a very good player. His form in early 2013 was stunning. He can do just about everything a box to box CM is supposed to do to a good standard without being great at any one thing.
I’d have said a major aim for Jordan would be to score double figure goals. 6 is his highest ever total. Not enough. We know he is capable. But I worry a bit about the balance of the team with him and Milner. They can’t both attack, especially considering how how the full backs will play. The old days of having two all round CM’s and them deciding ad hoc which one will stay and which one will go are gone. The game is too quick. Then again I have a suspicion the aim is to score 80 goals because we know we’ll concede 50.
He won’t be a great player. We’re approaching his ceiling. He was at best average as a right wing back, which is 100% not his fault. He tried hard, the least you’d expect. I never want to see him play any other position than centre mid. I’d hope he’d now put his foot down on that with the manager. But he might find himself dropped if he does. He goes missing too often for my taste, especially when we’re struggling.
Which brings me onto the captaincy. He’s an okay leader. He’s good when things are going well and good when things are tight, but when we’re under the cosh he’s nowhere to be seen. I think this is because he lacks the inspiration of a peak Gerrard, who could change things with an outrageous pass or strike, and lacks the sheer nastiness of a Roy Keane. When United were in trouble, Keane would lunge in late and take a yellow, get tempers frayed, cause a fracas and chew out a teammate which changed the feeling of a game. A lot of footballers are too nice nowadays. I don’t mind him having the armband but in other circumstances it would be Sakho.
Whats next? 8 goals minus penos and a slightly better season than last year. Unfortunately I can’t see him raising any silverware until at least 2017.
Glad you mentioned Roy Keane in all that, here’s a few more: John Terry, Vidic, Kompany, shows that you can still be a leader in today’s game and be focused on trophies, leaders weren’t limited to the 70’s like Emlyn or Souness. But hey ho go Hendo!! LOL!!
So is your argument that he isn’t focused on trophies because he sends the odd tweet?
Does that mean you think he is over three times as focused as Gerrard was?
Is that you again Chris/Leanne arguing with yourself? Impressively committed trolling if it is.
Tom C – you think I’m Reddo? And Chris? And Leanne?
Yes, I have 4 identities. They all must have different opinions though because I completely disagree with Reddo, as my above post shows.
Unless you think I would spend time arguing with myself…? Wise up.
If you don’t agree with me on Henderon, say so. But attacking me out of nowhere is pathetic.
Wow. Positivity there Reddo. We may as well pack in the footy with this no-mark captaining us. Imagine him posting pictures in his summer holidays. What disgraceful behaviour. Also, all of this promotional work on behalf of the clubs sponsors, that needs to stop an all. He needs to rethink his career path if he wants to play for the mighty Liverpool and be accepted.
Who does he think he is eh?
Although you’re welcome to counter argue my points as I can’t even spell my own name!
Patronising with ‘you’re welcome to a counter argument’? I thought that’s what the comments section is for or why else have one?
Harsh… hardly spends ‘the entire summer promoting himself’ – and let’s be honest, that is not exactly his decision – more a PR team preference prompting every update / advert. Meh, it’s great that his profile is growing – he’s a potentially great player who is playing very well for us, increasing in quality every year… so let’s get behind him and hope this new era is a good one.
Decent article too.
It’s time to move on!
I think that view should be expanded into a whole article.
It clearly feels like a new chapter is beginning. We don’t know whether it’ll be good or bad but it’s exciting. There’s a lot of intriguing scenario’s gonna be played out. Rodgers last throw of the dice, Henderson’s captaincy, Henderson & Milner partnership, Coutinho & Firmino, the more dynamic backroom team, Benteke. I feel excited yet calm. The nerves, apprehension and expectation of every other pre seasons aren’t there. It’s like I’m spaced out and just riding with it. Maybe we all need to shed our baggage and, by default, start enjoying it. I think Henderson’s gonna be a really good captain.
Henderson is and will continue to be a great player for Liverpool. Come the end of the season, I am pretty confident people will be heaping praise on him. Can’t help but feel like Hendo and Milner will boss games from midfield.
On a side note, it would be great to see a proper Liverpool lad step up, not saying Hendo doesn’t deserve the chance, but its Liverpool FC after all, where’s the local talent?
I went to watch the U21’s last night. As a side note, I found it unbelievable that I’ve supported both Liverpool and Chester all my life yet managed to turn up at the wrong ground when they both played each other. I call Chester’s stadium the Deva stadium. I didn’t even know it’s changed to the Vauxhall Lookers stadium. So, I turned up at Vauxhall’s stadium 5 mins before kick off. The minute I realised I thought god, I’m a knob.
Anyway, I thought Jordan Rossiter looked head and shoulders above the others. He was captain and I thought he carried himself like a captain. You never know, he could be one to keep our eye on.
Rossiter isn’t and will never be good enough for any club with top 4 ambitions Im afraid.
Otherwise we wouldn’t have Henderson, Milner, Lucas, Allen and Can for his position. If he was going to make it here you’d expect this season to be his big breakthrough, but looking at Rodgers decision to not get rid of any CMs and in fact bring another one in, it isnt happening.
People are desperate for him to be good enough because he’s scouse. Will be sold in 2 years for £4m.
Maybe. The reality is we don’t know. If we don’t know then what’s the point of writing an 18 year old off? Seems a bit odd to me. I live in a world where I see hope as more productive than cynicism. Anyway, why does he have to break through this season?
Because players good enough to come through the youth system at a big club tend to do it before the age of 20.
And believe me, cynicism is incredibly necessary where facts and the truth are concerned. Ask any good journalist or cop looking into big business or government policy.
Ok, couple of things there. If players tend to come good before 20 then he’s got time and so by your own admission it’s pointless writing him off now.
The other thing is I was under the impression we were talking about a footballer. I’m cynical when it comes to big business and government policy but what the fuck has Jordan Rossiter got to do with either? And, are you a cop or a journalist? Believe me mate, you don’t have to be cynical over young lads who play football.
First post here – love the site.
Couple of things – anyone else excited about the added physicality / fight from the new signings ?
Firmino, Milner and Benteke add a bit more bite to the side.
‘Stare down’ Hendo is in good company now and hopefully it will make the whole side more competitive – especially when we’re up against physical sides where last season we sometimes wilted under pressure.
Also in terms of defensive training – I wonder how our CBs will improve after facing their nemesis Benteke in training every week ?
Makes the best use of his limited talent but not captain material.