I’ve never been more wrong about a football player in my entire life than I was with Jordan Henderson. I remember laughing when Daglish paid £16 million for him then shifted him out wide, I didn’t see any sign of real quality from him. Then he was made Liverpool captain; having to follow in the footsteps of Steven Gerrard, I thought Rodgers was mental!
Albeit, the Northern Irishman couldn’t have been more spot on with his decision, the quote below said after giving Hendo the armband was rather judicious:
“Jordan is someone who leads through example – through his actions, attitude and application. He shows total commitment to the game and is a role model professional.”
It was true back then too in terms of work ethic but he wasn’t technically good enough for me, he did not have a great season after getting the captaincy and just couldn’t seem to fulfil the potential expected of him after leaving his boyhood club. My opinion of him wasn’t an unpopular one though, many felt the same way. Then Klopp came along and changed everything.
Personally, I think Henderson’s drastic improvement is down to Jürgen Klopp. The German saw potential I never saw nurturing him into one of the Premier League’s best Central Midfielders, I honestly believe that. If Henderson didn’t play as many games as he did for Liverpool in the previous PL campaign I don’t think they would’ve even made the top four. Holding Midfielders in general are often underappreciated but you don’t need to have a thorough understanding of modern football to conduct a rudimentary analysis which will always show how good he is. Being a phenomenal midfielder doesn’t automatically make one a suitable captain though, yes it’s important but it takes other unique qualities to captain a top side, which Henderson has.
I’m not against Kane being captain at all and I’m glad he is, the Spurs goal machine has done a remarkable job so far for England but it wouldn’t work as well as it does without Henderson at his side. They’re very different in the way they motivate and inspire the squad; Kane leads from the front and gives belief whereas Henderson displays characteristics reminiscent of a more traditional leadership role.
If you compare the two on conventional qualities you expect from your leader Henderson would arguably be a better captain for England than Kane, he did learn from Stevie G after all. For example; past legends such as Gerrard and Terry were extremely passionate, wore their hearts on their sleeves and inspired their colleagues to victory – attributes we tend to associate with the best captains. However, I am so glad Kane got the armband over Henderson.
From what I’ve observed of the Liverpool captain, he performs better when the spotlight isn’t constantly on him. Of course Klopp helped him improve but it cannot be a coincidence that his game improved in abundance after Salah’s Merseyside arrival setting the league alight; Hendo was no longer the focus of criticism allowing him to focus on his game pressure-free.
It’s similar with England; Kane is the centre of attention in a positive manner with Sterling being bombarded with the more negative scrutiny. At both club and country level it’s led to Hendo playing with a myriad of confidence and freedom, you can tell he’s enjoying his football. As Gary Neville said:
“He wants to learn all the time, he works hard, he’s conscientious, he’s a manager’s dream. And tonight — when he was under pressure (from Dier) to win the spot, he looks like he’s cemented his spot.”
It’s not his technical ability and unbelievable passing that makes him an asset to any team, it’s the way he organises his teammates ensuring everything goes smoothly. Just watch him in the each England game if we keep progressing, you’ll be able to hear him shout over the commentary. The belief and unity within the squad is spearheaded by Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane, bring it home boys.
Edit: This was written before the Belgium game. Following Hendo’s missed penalty against Colombia and the devastation it seemed to cause him, we will see his true strength of character with how he performs against Sweden – I have the utmost faith.