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) 🙂