From his youth days under Roy Keane at Sunderland to captaining the reds to their sixth Champions League title last year in Madrid, it has certainly been an extraordinary journey for Jordan Henderson. 

Filling the boots of former captain and adored Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard was never going to be an easy task for anyone, and whilst Henderson may not be the man to score 30-yard screamers in the dying embers of important games, he has certainly earned the respect and appreciation of the reds supporters over the last couple of years. 

Not only has the 29-year-old been an ever-present in this recordbreaking Liverpool side, but he has also put in a number of inspired performances throughout the season that have guided the league leaders through some difficult obstacles. 

Arrival at Liverpool

After coming through the youth academy at Sunderland and becoming a regular in the first-teamHendo was brought in by Kenny Dalglish as a £20 million signing in the Summer of 2011. And although he has endured some difficult times during his nine-year stint with the club, he has battled through all the hardships to become one of Jurgen Klopp’s most trusted assets. 

Henderson in action for boyhood club Sunderland (Image from Wonker, creative commons act)

Even from his early days at Anfield his potential was evident, with then manager Kenny Dalglish quick to praise the midfielder’s determination to succeed at the very top. “He had the sole thought in this mind that he was going to be a player.” 

“He didn’t spit his dummy out when there was something said about him that was not complimentary, He would just work even harder.”  

“And if something complimentary was said, he never got carried away with it. He is very level either way and a fantastic example to anybody.” 

THAT 2013/14 season

Henderson enjoyed a decent start to his Liverpool career, and despite speculation linking him with a move away from the club, Hendo went on to make 67 league appearances in his first two seasons at Anfield, notching up 7 goals in the process. However, it wasn’t until the 2013-14 campaign before the rest of the world began taking notice of the energetic midfielder. 

Many even go far as to say that it was Henderson’s three game suspension during the title run in that cost Liverpool their first ever Premier League, as his performances in the 34 domestic games beforehand spearheaded Liverpool towards the crown.  

In the end it wasn’t to be for the Merseysiders and fast forward to a year later, current skipper and club legend Steven Gerrard announced that he would be leaving his boyhood team at the end of the season. 

Taking the captain’s armband

Despite his departure, it would prove to be the perfect opportunity for another member of the squad to step in and try fill the void left behind as Stevie G departed for the United States. 

Jordan Henderson (far right) replaced Steven Gerrard (far left) as Liverpool captain in 2015. (Image from Steve Boulton, creative commons act)

Much to the delight of many Liverpool supporters, Brendan Rodgers selected Henderson as the man to take over the captain’s armband, but despite his impressive 2013/14 season, the English midfielder still had his critics, and it took a while before he found his feet in his new role. 

Unable to match his heroics of the previous season, Hendo’s doubters grew more and more as he struggled to reach the heights expected of a Liverpool captain. 

Under the influence of Jurgen Klopp

Not even the appointment of new manager Jurgen Klopp ignited the ex-Sunderland player’s form, but the German gaffer was quick to leap to the defence of his skipper, saying in 2016: “I see him every day in training so if I was doubting him then he would not be here. I have no doubt,” 

“A Liverpool player, that is at the club with not so much success in recent years, is always doubted a little bit. They always have to show they are not the reason we have not made the next step. Of course, that is not the reason. 

Henderson remained in Klopp’s first team set-up for the next two seasons as fans remained divided about their opinions on him, and the acquisition of Virgil Van Dijk for £75 million in January 2018 raised further doubt about the future of Liverpool’s captain. 

Van Dijk enjoyed a stellar start to his Liverpool career, and although Henderson was also playing well, some fans were quick to voice their opinions on the Dutchman potentially replacing Hendo as leader of the pack. 

The reds went on to lose out to Real Madrid in the Champions League final as their pursuit of a first trophy in six years continued, but the upcoming season proved to be the campaign in which Henderson started to win back many of his plaudits from the 2013/14 season. 

Liverpool lost out to Real Madrid in the 2018 UEFA Champions League final held in Kyiv. (Image from Антон Зайцев, creative commons act)

Liverpool finished the 2018/19 league season missing out on the league by a solitary point behind Manchester City, but they did manage to end their long wait for silverware after claiming their sixth Champions League trophy with a 2-0 win over fellow English side Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid, something which clearly meant a lot to Henderson as he was spotted after the game hugging his father who was in the stands. The bittersweet moment was a sign of just how hard Jordan had worked throughout his career to get to this stage. 

Henderson played a pivotal role in their domestic and European journey that year and produced a commanding performance in the famous comeback against Barcelona in the semi-final second leg tie at Anfield.  

2019/20 success

The now 29-year-olds impressive displays have continued over to this season, becoming the first Liverpool captain ever to lift the Club World Championship trophy, after the reds defeated Brazilian outfit Flamengo in the final in Qatar.  

Compatible in both a central and defensive midfield role, Henderson has been an integral part of the record-breaking season, with Klopp once again eager to heap praise on his captain. “Yes, he’s exceptional, he’s outstanding,” said Klopp. 

“If anyone who is with us doesn’t see the quality of Jordan Henderson I can’t help him.” 

 “Is Hendo the perfect football player? No. Do I know anybody who is? No. Is he unbelievably important to us? Yes.” 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is a keen admirer of the reds skipper. (image from Mehdi Bolourian, creative commons act)

Not only has Henderson cemented his place in the manager’s starting line-up, but he has also won over the vast majority of fans who doubted his credibility as captain. 

His performances in the big games have helped rally his Liverpool side to important victories throughout the season, with his recent dominant display against fierce rivals Manchester United and his opening goal in the win over Wolverhampton Wanderers only adding to his long list of admirers.  

Not only is he now appreciated by the Liverpool faithful, but the rest of England is also singing the praises of the midfielder, as he was recently voted England’s best player of 2019 by the nation’s fans. There have even been some shouts for him to win the Premier League Player of the Year award.

Henderson was named England Men’s player of the year in 2019. (image from Oleg bkhambri, creative commons act)
The final word

Jordan Henderson might not ever reach the glorious heights that Steven Gerrard achieved, and he may lack the goal scoring prowess as well as the capability to win the game out of nothing, something which the previous skipper consistently produced.  

However, Hendo looks set to achieve something which Stevie failed to do, becoming the first Liverpool captain ever to lift the Premier League.  

Although nothing is guaranteed just yet, if Jordan Henderson carries on leading this Liverpool side to win after win for the remainder of the season, the league title will surely be on it’s way to Anfield for the first time in 30 years.  

A huge part of that success will be down to the leadership skills of Jordan Henderson in that midfield three, as well as his passing ability and calmness plus efficiency on the ball. As of January 25th Hendo has provided two goals and three assists in the league, and has completed 87 accurate long balls, something which Gerrard himself would be proud of.

He may not ever be as gifted a footballer as the likes of Steven Gerrard or other past captains such as John Barnes or the late Emlyn Hughes, but if Liverpool are to end their Premier League hoodoo come the end of the season, Jordan Henderson will no doubt enrich himself into the coveted history of Liverpool Football Club, and it will be fully deserved.  

(Featured image from John Jones, creative commons act)