Jordan Henderson is feeling good and ready to make a big impact at Euro 2016 after enduring the toughest season of his career.
Few expected the 26-year-old to be in England’s squad this summer after suffering what looked to be a season-ending knee injury against Borussia Dortmund in April.
However, Henderson’s determination and hard work saw him don a Liverpool shirt again within 38 days, then rid himself of the rust in time to make Roy Hodgson’s squad in France.
The midfielder made his first appearance of the championships as England were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Slovakia, but hopes his display over 90 minutes gave the manager food for thought.
“I’ve said before this has been the toughest season of my career so far, just because of injury, playing with injuries and stuff like that,” Henderson said.
“It has been difficult, mentally, physically, so even to be here is an honour for me really because I didn’t think I was going to be here. Monday was big for me.
“I always felt if I kept working hard and training hard I’d get an opportunity, and it came and hopefully the manager was happy with the contribution I made.
“I think the midfielders have done very well. Dele Alli has been brilliant, (Eric) Dier has been brilliant and Wazza (Wayne Rooney) has been fantastic. So there’s a lot of competition in the middle of the park but that goes for every area of the pitch.
“It’s down to the manager and what team he feels he needs to win the game, but I feel ready, I feel good.”
Henderson may struggle to get another start in Monday’s last-16 in Nice given the impact Rooney has made.
Of his 114 caps, the last three matches are the only ones he has played in the midfield but his intelligence, passing range and tenacity has worked well.
“Very good, very well,” Henderson said when asked about the England captain’s performances.
“To be fair I’ve seen him play there for United a few times and he’s done well.
“He’s a very good footballer. It doesn’t really matter where he plays, he plays well. Over the last three games he’s done very well.”
A positive assessment is also what Henderson gives to England’s Group B displays, despite the goalless draw in St Etienne seeing them finishing second to Wales.
The Liverpool captain is not overly focused on the culmination of Group F on Wednesday when they will find out their opponents, but knows whoever they face a more ruthless edge is needed.
“For the complete performance, definitely in front of goal,” Henderson said of the required improvements.
“We’re creating chances, we just need to finish teams off. At some point we will win by two or three nil but we just need to improve in that final third.
“I think it’s certainly something we need to improve on. When teams have sat in against us we’ve struggled to find the net.
“But we’ve got enough quality in the team. We need to make sure that in the games coming up we finish teams off properly.”