Liverpool should cherish Henderson as he starts to deliver promise

Date published: Tuesday 20th September 2016 11:50

Jordan Henderson: A divisive yet under-appreciated figure

TEAMtalk’s Michael Graham recalls the early career of Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, and the character that makes him a coach’s dream.

It’s not something that is noted often, but Sunderland have a decent record of producing young players. Granted, it’s not the level of the elite clubs with the elite budgets, but it’s respectable.

Twenty-two-year-old Jordan Pickford is currently impressing between the sticks for both Sunderland and England under-21s, while Lynden Gooch, an American who has been with the Black Cats all the way from under-16s level, has done well after breaking into the side this season.

The football league is not short of Sunderland academy products either, with one-time England call-up Jack Colback at Newcastle, and Championship player-of-the-month for August Conor Hourihane among those thriving on the back of their time at the Stadium of Light.

There is, though, of course, one stand-out name on the list of Sunderland academy alumni, and that is Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson. He’s a player who, despite his recent brilliant winner at Stamford Bridge, divides opinion but, then again, he always did.

Henderson first broke into the Sunderland side under the then new manager Steve Bruce in 2009. He was 19 and had starred the previous year on loan in the Championship with Coventry, so he wasn’t a complete unknown by any stretch of the imagination.

The first time I personally saw him was the opening game of the 2009 pre-season Amsterdam Tournament.  Sunderland had another midfield academy product at the time, Grant Leadbitter, who had established himself as a dependable member of the first team squad, and he was partnered alongside Henderson in the centre of the park.

IMPRESSION: A young Jordan Henderson impresses against Benfica in the summer of 2009.

Now, Leadbitter is a good player. He always was. He’s someone who represented England at every level until senior, was a force in the Championship for not one but three clubs (two of which were promoted with him in the side), and has just returned to the Premier League with Middlesbrough.

Leadbitter’s presence alongside Henderson, though, did him no favours in the long run. The comparison was too stark. Henderson was receiving a ball, getting his head up, and moving it on in the same time it took Leadbitter to just get it under control. There was no hiding place for him. That summer, he was sold to Ipswich.

Henderson, though, did not enjoy an easy start at his boyhood club. Division of opinion followed him almost immediately. Originally a right-winger both for the academy side and Coventry, using him in central midfield was the brain-child of Bruce and it wasn’t universally popular to say the least.

Over the next season or two, he almost fed the division himself, even if he did it in the most positive way. Much of his most eye-catching work in the pitch was his delivery into the box from wide positions, even when he was deployed more centrally.

Jordan Henderson stats


In fact, even today, five years after his departure to Liverpool for best part of £20million and having established himself as an England regular, debate still exists among Sunderland fans over his best position, his true quality, and whether or not selling him was a masterstroke or criminal.

Those who never seem to waver in their appreciation and admiration for him are those who have worked with him and know him. That’s evidenced by the succession of Liverpool and England managers happy to back him, but it goes back to his Sunderland days too.

Former Black Cats captain and academy coach, Kevin Ball, tells a story about how the youth team and even coaches would all text Henderson on a Saturday night to get the X-Factor results as they’d all be out drinking and knew that he wouldn’t be. He still doesn’t drink to this day.

He had a fan in Bolo Zenden too, who, then in the twilight of a career that had seen him play for the likes of Barcelona, Liverpool and Chelsea, would regularly stay back with Henderson after training for extra work.

When Henderson became a father and was congratulated by a friend, he commented back that ‘he’s always been a bit too grown up anyway’ when considering the added responsibility in his life.


Who scored the best goal in the Premier League this weekend?

  • Henderson v Chelsea
  • Gundogan v Bournemouth
  • Xhaka v Hull
  • Arnautovic v C Palace


Ultimately these are the reasons why Henderson the footballer divides opinion. He’s never been one to hide from responsibility and stand still. The ambition and dedication to drive onwards that he showed as a youth player for Sunderland still manifests itself on the pitch for Liverpool today.

He could easily play the simple, backwards passes and coast by on impressive yet ultimately worthless passing accuracy statistics, but that’s not his character. He wants to try the ambitious pass and play, he wants to embrace the responsibility to make something happen.

Sometimes, that goes wrong and he looks bad for it. It’s the thing that is noticed and remembered by many fans and members of the media. But he’s a player you are going to want in your side – and that’s why he is yet to encounter a coach who doesn’t.

Michael Graham

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Home Forums Liverpool should cherish Henderson as he starts to deliver promise

This topic contains 10 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by mwake mwake 4 months ago.

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    Michael Graham

    We recall the early career of Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson, and the character that makes him a coach’s dream.

    [See the full post at: Liverpool should cherish Henderson as he starts to deliver promise]



    Henderson has indeed played very well in the last two games, but will this last, it is only two games? If it does LFC have a fine player & not MR Average. Time will tell.


    The more players that we have in top form, the less likely it will be that we have a shocker.



    He was shite at Burnley. Put a run of say 8 good games every 10 then maybe we can get our hopes up.



    The only hope I got for Henderson would be that he would be over his injury problem



    Hendo’s doing well at the moment but not exactly a World Beater,Let’s hope He can keep progressing.



    Will be interesting to see how he does on a rdgular basis!



    What I had hoped Henderson would ultimately bring to the table was a bit different from our former captains, I wanted work rate from him, that he would marshal the rest of the lads into on unit that would approach the game much the same way he does.

    He is never going to be a midfielder that scores 20 goals a season, or supply 20 assists but what he can do is build the platform for other player to do so. The high workrate game we are witnessing right now is perfect for him and only a handful of players could play in the same way.

    He might not be a world beater but he can lead his team into being world beaters.



    I have Him As he is Liverpool Club Captain of Liverpool


    Notorious – “He is never going to be a midfielder that scores 20 goals a season, or supply 20 assists but what he can do is build the platform for other player to do so.”

    That’s exactly what he did in the Leicester game. He was very instrumental in starting things for us. In my own mind I had him down as one of the best players on the pitch. A performance that would very often have gotten him man of the match, only for the likes of Lallana, Firmino and Mane be insanely good.

    As for his injury problems, I think what he has is permanent. Maybe since it’s early on in the season, it’s not as bad now but I guess there might be a chance that it will get worse as the games pile on. . . but then again, we’re not in Europe, so there will at least be fewer matches.


    Like Lovren last season Henderson has improved from rock bottom. But it doesnt mean he is a world beater despite his wolrdie of a goal. I feel his devlopment was possibly stunted when, he got sent off against Mancity in 2014. He then had to cover for Gerrard in an awkward position and then when Gerrard finally left, he got that terrible injury. Its only now that it appears that he is able to play a run of games and get into a groove. He still plays to many side passes which makes him predictable and would also like to see him run with the ball more often this would increase his sense of unpredictability. Ultimately if Jurgen Klopp cant raise Henderson and make him abetter player then there is no hope. For me the Jury is still out even though I think he is a solid player. Klopp is going to kick up some more dust next summer and im pretty sure more players will leave in 2017. I don’t think henderson will be one of them but Im not sure if he will be the main man either!

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