At times, when listening to fans of Liverpool and England discussing Jordan Henderson, it is hard to remember that he is the captain of his club and one of the more experienced players in his national side.
People have seemingly, and conveniently, forgotten that he spent most of last season out injured, and even when he returned, was playing through the pain to help the team. The player of the previous two seasons, high energy and vitally important to Liverpool, has been completely discarded and banished from the memory.
Henderson has played over two hundred matches for Liverpool, and has nearly thirty England caps. His average pass completion rate since joining the Reds is 84.1% and he has scored 22 goals and made 34 assists.
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For a player considered by many to be completely useless, the stats tell a different story. They tell the story of a player who is quietly effective; Henderson won’t ever make the same impact as people like Steven Gerrard – who will? The inevitable comparisons are unfair.
It is well-known that Henderson was offered the chance to leave Liverpool by Brendan Rodgers, but chose to stay and fight for his place. His character – to use the phrase synonymous with Rodgers himself – was evident, and when Gerrard left, he completed the turnaround by becoming the captain of Liverpool.
That sounds like a player and a person deserving of much more praise, or at least a little more respect than is currently offered. Of course he can improve further, like everybody else, and receiving more plaudits for the good work he is doing will only help.
Players read social media and newspapers; he will be aware of the comments being made. If those comments were to become more positive, rather than continual negativity, that will only make things better – he is only human.
With signings like Georginio Wijnaldum and Marko Grujic, it would be easy to say that Henderson’s place in the team is under threat. Whilst Grujic has had an impressive pre-season, it is too early to talk of him becoming a nailed-on first team player just yet, and Wijnaldum is a different option to Henderson: he plays further forward for a start.
Why would either of them come in and immediately move ahead of the captain in the pecking order without playing a competitive game?
With a full pre-season under his belt, and a little more luck with fitness, the Jordan Henderson of 2013/14 should return. The Henderson that presses and harries, leads by example, and offers more quality on the ball than anyone likes to admit, is a perfect player for Jurgen Klopp’s style.
Energetic and box-to-box, one of the key reasons that Liverpool did not win the league in the aforementioned season was because Henderson was dismissed against Manchester City, and missed three of the last four games. How easily that is forgotten.
Next season is a very important one for Henderson. If he can regain the form of prior to the injuries, he will once again become a vital, if undervalued, member of the team.
For that to happen, he needs support, not constant criticism. He is at Anfield to stay, and is the Liverpool captain, so now is the time to start treating him like one.
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