Jordan Henderson: A Man With A Challenge At His Feet

Now, impress the boss or face the consequences! That’s the challenge faced by the captain of the club. 

It’s not as if the manager listens to the fans’ opinions as regards his players. If that was indeed the case Jordan Henderson would probably have been sold and replaced by another central midfielder of his exact stature, only better as a player, no matter the amount of money involved in the transfer story surrounding him: money in and money out. Okay, so there are Liverpool supporters who like him and is convinced he will come good and get better, but no fan of the man and the club can ever say this simple thing out loud or write in social media outlets: Jordan Henderson is almost as good as Steven Gerrard, Jan Mølby, Ronnie Whelan and Graeme Souness were. It just doesn’t happen. It has never been heard or read by a fan of Liverpool Football Club. Not in a pub, not in a newspaper, and not in social media outlets of any kind. 

As a Liverpool player one will always be compared to legendary players of the past. Hey, is Adam Lallana as good as Terry McDermott was? Is he as good as Ray Houghton was? Or how about Steve McMahon? Will Lallana ever become as good as these players were?

Probably not.

 And who’s the best left back in LFC history? Is it Gerry Byrne, Alan Kennedy, Steve Staunton, Stig Inge Bjørnebye or John Arne Riise? It certainly isn’t Alberto Moreno.

Jordan Henderson has 159 appearances for Liverpool, and has scored 19 goals. Henderson isn’t seen as a player to count on in terms of brilliant assists either. How about his defensive prowess? Could he be seen as a brilliant defensive midfielder able to tackle a big goal opportunity of the opposition into pieces? No, for that the fans look to Emre Can or Lucas Leiva, never to Henderson. Henderson does have an eye for what goes on around him as he plays. He can see a player on the run, whether it is a teammate or an opposition team player. But he is far from alone in this. Georginio Wijnaldum Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, James Milner and Philippe Coutinho are as good or even better than him in terms of the classic note known as an eye or a vision of the ongoing play taking place around them. All Liverpool fans can see this. All opposition sides’ fans can equally do so.

Four years after being signed from Sunderland for £16m, Jordan Henderson was named captain as Steven Gerrard had played his last match for the club in his heart. Henderson declared it a great honour and a huge privilege to replace Gerrard as Liverpool’s captain. Steven Gerrard, who was captain for 12 years, told Sky Sports News: Jordan’s been loyal to the club by signing a new deal and I wish him well. I see a lot of my game in Jordan’s game and what I like about him is he’s very humble. I don’t think there’s a more fitting player to take that armband off me. (Daily Mail, July 10, 2015) 

Liverpool had just beaten Burnley, Henderson scoring one and creating another goal as the football club’s vice captain, and manager Brendan Rodgers was quoted as saying; “They are totally different. Steven one of the best players of all time in the Premier League and I’ve said before there’s no comparison. Jordan is a young guy and wonderful talent but a different type of player. You should stop putting pressure on a player like Jordan Henderson. Because they both take corner and shoot from outside the box doesn’t mean he is the new Gerrard. He’s Jordan Henderson, he’s creating his own headlines and he’s vice captain – I would ask every young player to follow Gerrard by example as he’s an incredible professional and incredible football player. (Liverpool Echo, March 6, 2016)

Talking to Liverpool fans in the USA as his old club was in California for pre-season training at the Stanford training ground, Gerrard urged the fans to have faith and give Henderson the support he deserves this coming campaign. He was quoted as saying “I think we all need to get behind Jordan. The manager, the staff and the fans. He had a very difficult year last year with injuries, I’ve been there when you’re injured and frustrated. It affects your confidence and you’re desperate to get back. You see other players coming in and doing well, people are doubting you and saying that we should move him on. I’ve heard it all. But if we all get behind Henderson and he finds his top form he can be a very big asset for Klopp this year. I’m hoping he starts the season strong, gets his confidence early and I think he will be a big player for us. I just want everyone to get behind him and give him that chance.(Empire Of The Kop, July 28, 2016)

Questions about whether or not to sell Jordan Henderson this summer arised in late March 2016, as rumours of Klopp wanting to axe him came to life, notably in Sunday Times. It is not as if football players do not read newspapers and follow social media discussions. I believe Henderson was also responding to social media criticism when – after Liverpool humiliated AC Milan and enjoyed a 2-0 victory in Santa Clara – he talked to Liverpool Echo (July 31, 2016), saying “I felt good and like I said it’s the best I have felt in a long time coming into a pre-season. I’ve been working hard and I felt good out there, as did a lot of the other lads as well so it was a complete performance. We still want to improve on certain things, maybe score a few goals with the chances we created but overall we are happy with the performance.

Jordan Henderson still knows this coming season is one in which he must stay fit and do well for the club, no matter what. He should see this season as a personal challenge as well as a challege for the entire team. If we do not win the league title straight away, Jürgen Klopp will certainly be in a hurry to win the Premier League title at the end of the 2017 / 18 season. Make no mistake: Jürgen Klopp has come to Liverpool to create the greatest possible success story for all parties of interest: the fans, the club (his employer) and certainly for himself. He is going to get grandchildren to tell funny stories to, no doubt about that. 

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