Jordan Henderson is a serial winner. As Liverpool captain, he has overseen the most successful period for the club this century and done the impossible, replaced Steven Gerrard. This season he has already lifted three trophies and next May he is likely to be Liverpool’s first captain to get his hands on the elusive Premier League title.
It has been quite the turnaround for a player who is not only underappreciated but often highly criticised by the wider footballing public. For club and country, he was often seen as the scapegoat, slated for his sideways passing and lack of creativity. But Henderson brings so much more than that to any team he is in, he brings leadership, energetic pressing and heart.
This is not the first title run-in that Henderson has been integral to. Back in 2014, Brendan Rodgers led Liverpool to within three games of that elusive Premier League title yet things fell apart, first at Anfield against Chelsea and then at Selhurst Park.
On Boxing Day, the Liverpool captain will come up against his former boss as the unbeaten table-toppers visit the King Power Stadium. Current Leicester manager Rodgers has spoken in the past about how important the Englishman was too his Liverpool side that season:
“What is often overlooked in the season we narrowly missed out on the title is how much we missed Jordan Henderson in the game against Chelsea. He was sent off in the previous match at Anfield against Manchester City in injury time. It was so unfortunate. His physical influence – the pressing he brought to that team – was really missed.”
Perhaps if Henderson had been available to play in that game the Reds would not be still waiting for that Premier League title win. For his country, over the past few tournaments, Henderson has been simply irreplaceable. Facing fierce criticism from England fans, his missed penalty at the World Cup against Colombia only contributed to this widespread thought that he didn’t deserve his place in Gareth Southgate’s team.
However, he was and still is integral to England’s success. Heading into England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia he was on a run of 30 consecutive Three Lions appearances without a defeat and Southgate’s side only lost against the Croats once Henderson had been withdrawn. The 29-year-old is England’s reliable leader in the middle.
As one of the most experienced players in the Liverpool squad, it is easy for Jurgen Klopp to rely on him to produce a solid performance, week-in, week-out. Yet eyebrows were raised in 2015 when the Sunderland born lad was named as Liverpool’s new captain, the successor to Steven Gerrard.
Both Southgate and Klopp have stuck vehemently to their beliefs that Henderson has all the abilities to play at the very highest level and they are being proved right, time after time. Last year, the German manager heaped praise on his trustworthy captain:
“Hendo, from my point of view, is a brilliant player. He's our skipper, he's a fantastic character. If I had to write a book about Hendo, it would be 500 pages. So I'm very positive. The most difficult job in the last 500 years of football was to replace Steven Gerrard. In the mind of the people, it was like if it's not Stevie, then it's not good enough.”
Yet ‘the people’ have now moved on. Henderson isn’t just an inspirational leader full of heart, he is a fantastic top-flight footballer, one who perhaps is only just getting the credit he deserves. He’s warmed up by lifting a few huge trophies but lifting aloft the Premier League trophy for Liverpool would be his coronation day.
Only five Liverpool captains have ever lifted the European Cup. Only nine have every lifted the league title, none for thirty years. Henderson could write his name into Liverpool’s illustrious history and become the only man to do so during the Premier League era.