Serial Captain & Audi Cup Runner Up: What is a Jordan Henderson?

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Jordan Henderson. League Cup Winner 2012, Europa League Runner Up 2016, Audi Cup Runner Up 2017 & Serial Young Player of the Year Award Winner. His honours list reads like a small pack of Revels.

Yet somewhat amazingly, despite continuing to divide opinion and never really cementing his position as a winner, Henderson is a man who continues to defy critics and has somehow managed to work himself into the role of Captain for both club and country.

For Liverpool, Henderson follows the Captaincy footsteps of Hansen, Whelan, Rush, Barnes, Ince, Redknapp, Hyypia and Gerrard. A mainly elite list. (Sorry, Redknapp) I’d like to see Balotelli try and steal a penalty off them lot!

For England, Henderson follows Keegan, Robson, Lineker, Pearce, Platt, Adams Shearer, Beckham, Terry, Ferdinand, Gerrard & Rooney. To be fair, it’s hard to do much worse than most of them did, but respectfully, I won’t be putting my money on a Hendo and Southgate combo leading us to World Cup glory.

It’s a pithy proverb dating back to the Shakespearean era, that ‘heavy is the head that wears the crown.’ As the Captain of Liverpool FC and England, it’s not inconceivable to consider that at this moment in time, there is perhaps no other player in England carrying more weight and expectation than Jordan Henderson.

But what benefit does the heavy crown bear to Jordan? (Or Jord, as the strange fella who sits a few rows behind me calls him, weird.) Often vilified by fans, occasionally vilified by the press and topping out at circa 80 on the FIFA Cards, Henderson enjoys none of the fanfare or heroism of his predecessors. He’s an unsung hero, or maybe just unsung.

What exactly is a Jordan Henderson? And with so many fans de-valuing him, how and why has he managed to make it to the pinnacle of the game for club and country? ‘Go forward Jord.’ ‘Do something Jord,’ are the regular shouts from the strange fella in the stands. Even the hipsters who love a bit of Danny Pacheco and portray Joe Allen presenting The Sermon on the Mount struggle to comprehend Henderson’s Captaincy Material. Saying that my brother is a huge fan, but he also liked Ryan Babel, Jay Spearing and Antonio Nunez, so I don’t trust him.

None of this is to say that Henderson is a bad player, of course, and there are many LFC fans who appreciate his unselfish work, and definitely missed him when he was gone towards the end of last season. And let’s not forget, either, that it was perhaps Henderson’s omission from 3 of the last 4 games of the 13/14 season due to a 93rd-minute red card vs City, where we picked up 4 points out of a possible 9 and ultimately lost the title. A truly Butterfly effect comprehension, but if Hendo starts those games, there may be no Gerrard slip, no Suarez tears and no Aspas corner, but let’s leave that there eh. I’m not bitter. Bottom line, we missed him in both run ins. But putting all of this to one side, let’s be honest, if you polled Liverpool and England fans and asked them, who is your most influential player? Who is your leader? Who is your talisman? Not many results would come back Jordan Henderson. Some fans probably wouldn’t even have him in their starting 11, but there he is – proud Captain.

Luckily for Jordan, the fans don’t pick the team or the captains, and Henderson has impressed a number of top managers at club and country level for years, plus Roy Hodgson.

Assessing the views of the various managers and pros who have worked with Henderson over the years, it’s clear Henderson is not short of admirers in the professional arena.

In 2015, Brendan Rodgers had this to say about Jordan following a 2-0 win over Burnley;

“Jordan is improving all the time. As he matures even more tactically, he’ll become even better. He’s becoming one of the real leaders of this young team.”

Roy Hodgson – who brought Paul Konchesky to Liverpool for £3.5m in 2011 – is another admirer, adding as follows in 2015;

“I think as time goes on, the responsibility that he is being given now at Liverpool by Brendan will help him. He’s in our leadership group and is someone that needs to take on leadership responsibilities when he comes to England. His rise has been fairly meteoric as well. It wasn’t long ago that I picked him for Euro 2012 and the decision was vilified. Then when he went to the under-21 tournament a year later and got an awful lot of criticism captaining the England Under 21 team. No one had a good word to say about him. It’s only the last year people are starting to say: actually this boys a good player. I think we’ll see him get better and better and that’s what we hope. If he starts to add goals as well then you’re talking about someone who is exceptional.”

Henderson has gone on to score 3 goals in 44 games in the subsequent seasons following Hodgson’s comments.

Jurgen Klopp, who retained Henderson as Captain of Liverpool following Rodgers departure, joined the list of admirers;

“I love his attitude. I don’t read what you write so if there is not enough credit for him then do it. [emphasis added] He can’t have any more credit in my eyes. I love his attitude – it is outstanding. From my side, there is no doubt about him.”

In March 2017, after Liverpool’s loss to Leicester with Henderson injured, Steven Gerrard heaped further praise on Henderson.

“He is massively important and I think he’s become a big leader in the dressing room but also on the pitch as well.” “Not just the way he plays but also vocally as well, I think he’s really grown into the captaincy. “The thing that people don’t realise from the outside is that he puts 12, 12-and-a-half kilometres in, week in, week out. That’s full-on energy. “He helps Liverpool with the pressing style, winning the ball back and his passing this season has been very good. “So I think when you take him out, he’s a big loss.”

So, based on the above, putting fanfare to one-side and focussing solely on those who know Henderson best, the managers and fellow professionals who see him day in and day out, we can attempt to objectively answer the leading question, what exactly is a Jordan Henderson? It seems, that a Jordan Henderson is the kid in school who was never the brightest but revised more than anyone else and got his A’s. A Jordan Henderson is a player who would appear on the top lists when you filter 11 and above stats on Football Manager – a player of excessive light greens. A Jordan Henderson is a player who doesn’t excel at dribbling, creativity or technique, but trains the longest, runs the hardest and never, ever shirks responsibility. A Jordan Henderson is a player that goes unnoticed when he plays but is missed when he is gone. A Jordan Henderson, ladies and gentlemen, it would seem, is a player that you want on your team, but not only that, a Jordan Henderson is a player who has been selected as Captain at every possible level for various clubs and country. A Jordan Henderson is a player who currently carries a collective burden of weight and expectation, perhaps exceeding that of any other player in England, “so if there is not enough credit for him, then do it!!

With 4-5 years of playing left at the top level, it remains to be seen whether Henderson can ever really appease the critics in the media and stands, and at 27, he really needs to start adding to his list of Runners Up Medals and Young Player of the Year Awards if he’s ever going to justify his role as Captain of Club of Country, and be remembered as anything more than a fleeting blip of lacklustre leadership in a long list of elite Captains.

‘Jordan Henderson is our Captain, Jordan Henderson is a Red, Jordan Henderson plays for Liverpool, he’s a good egg, born and bred.’ (Sorry, forget that. It doesn’t quite have the same ring) 🙂

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  1. Those that keep banging on about Hendo and his one off performances should read this. It refers to quite a few specifics:

    1. The second Watford goal, Henderson doesn’t close down Cleverly on the throw in and then goes walk about, not following the runner who crosses the ball.

    2. Henderson was generally poor in the Watford game. There was two examples during the game where there was space in front of him to drive in to, one instance being with the ball and the other without. On both occasions had he gone in to the gap, it would have disrupted Watford’s midfield shape.

    3. Against Hoffenheim away, Henderson as the number 6 failed to make the forward brave passes in this game, instead choosing to go backwards. The best way to beat the high press is to have a midfielder who is comfortable in possession and can see the forward pass to take out the oppositions strikers and midfield.

    5. Against Palace, the midfield of Henderson, Milner & Gini struggled to find the early passes in behind & therefore did not play to Firmino, Mane & Sturridge’s strengths, instead playing in to feet. Robertson with 3 chances created did more than Gini, Henderson & Milner put together.

    6. The 1st goal we conceded against Sevilla, the ball is headed away by Gomez. Can & Henderson too slow to get out of the box to Correa.

    7. The 2nd Sevilla goal, Can doesn’t cover the infield throw. However, even Henderson is not exempt from criticism. As the deepest lying midfielder, it’s his position really to pick up the runner as the throw in comes in.

    8. 2nd Leics goal in the league cup: Hendo takes too long on the ball. His passing options are cut off & he ends up conceding a throw in.

    From the thrown in, Hendo doesn’t retreat to close the throw to Okazaki who plays one two with Slimani, who scores. So, although it looks like Robertson’s fault, Robertson was forced to leave doubling up on the bigger/stronger threat Slimani in an attempt to close down Okazaki.

    9. In the 52nd min of the same game, Hendo shows lack of bravery by failing to drive in to space in front of him & drawing Leics players out. Instead he plays square.

    10. In the same match Hendo is easily nutmegged by Gray (not Messi) who goes on to shoot wide.

  2. Not usual for TIA articles to be devoid of such reality.

    -World class DM players know it’s all about positioning. 12.5km is fine, but we know the reality of this statistics is generally a headless chicken with poor positional play and little nouse.
    – it’s clear LFC have a few too many poor quality players unsuited to the roles they are expected to do. It’s a double whammy that is exposed in pro football mercilessly. Hendo typifies this “we’ll train them to be better” strategy that has limits for some players.
    – Hendo has 10 poor games 10 semi decent games all the rest injured, rinse repeat each season. LFC are no better with him than without him suggesting little impact. LFC should train Gruijic and Can for that position, Hendo isn’t immune to competition, esp from technically better players.

    In short he’s a bang average player for a Sunderland, for LFC he just doesn’t have the qualities necessary, and now is unlikely to improve much further.

  3. Forgive me if the article doesn’t portray the message it intends. The whole purpose of the article is to demonstrate the total disparity between top level managers opinions of Hendo and fans/ pundits. The comments here clearly show this to be true.

    Henderson is adored by managers and has been captain at every level for club and country, but continues to be a scapegoat. I am not saying who is right or wrong, I am merely pointing out the huge divide in opinion with quotes and facts.

    However, there is an undertone to the article in that I feel the criticism is often to heavy. Personally, I don’t think he is good enough, but equally I cant think of any better captain in this squad, right now. He always gives his best and he’s not a terrible player. Whilst he’s here doing the job and working hard at it, we should get behind him. Also, if he is terrible, then why do so many top managers and pro’s rate him?

    He is a conundrum.

  4. I agree with some of the points made in this article. But the most important thing to note is that he’s being deployed in the wrong position. Playing him as the DM is a massive mistake and leads to a whole lot of errors and our CBs being exposed. His positioning is wrong in so many moments and often leads to players driving through our midfield and others having to backtrack and cover those spaces. I still think Henderson has decent qualities NEXT to a proper defensive midfielder, i.e., a prototypical destroyer. Playing him next to a proper DM, will let him do those little things that he excels at like pressing, and passing and harassing opposition players without compromising the system. The gaps he leaves will be covered and lead to a more balanced side.

  5. Thought provoking article. Hendo is definitely a conundrum. In terms of the captaincy the only person whose opinion matters on this subject is Klopp’s. Klopp is a pragmatist in the sense that he prefers to work with the players he has. That’s why he started playing Hendo as a number 6 as he deemed him the best option in the squad. Injuries have affected Hendo’s transition to a number 6 role and that’s been evident, but given we didn’t sign Keita I think we have to persevere with him in that role. Personally I don’t believe he’s the best option but Klopp will stick to the methods that have served him well in the past, i.e. not giving up on players. In terms of the captaincy, Klopp inherited the situation but in the absence of too many other candidates I think Hendo will remain captain unless his injuries mean he’s no longer an automatic starter. Where I feel Hendo can improve is his positional awareness and looking to take more calculated risks with his forward passing.

  6. No conundrum. If he was as good as is claimed, you wouldn’t have to keep writing articles like this. He is an average talent with s strong work ethic. He would not make many top sides in top European leagues, a good squad player

  7. Good point Stefan.

    Henderson does nothing except run and shout at people. He is tactically illiterate and a coward on the ball. Always the safe ten yard option. Guardiola and Mourinho would not take him for free.

  8. Him being the captain of LFC is a symbol of the embarrassing status of this ‘football club’ which is in reality a cash cow for FSG, JWH and his lovely trophy wife.


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