To think Jordan Henderson’s first official season as Liverpool FC captain ended with the club finishing eighth in the Premier League is remarkable. He took over from a legend in Steven Gerrard in 2015 and it was not the easiest time for him or his team-mates. Jurgen Klopp, the current Liverpool Manager replaced Brendan Rodgers midway through the season and they eventually missed out on Europe.
But look at Henderson now. A Champions League winner, a Club World Cup winner, and a Premier League winner in-waiting (except if they slip up). How many kids at home will have pictures of Jordan Henderson pinned to their walls lifting a trophy surrounded by his team-mates? All great teams should have at least three leaders and Liverpool have plenty of players who look like captaincy material to me, including Virgil van Dijk and James Milner.
Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson had Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs and so on. Arsenal under Arsene Wenger had Tony Adams, Martin Keown and more. Henderson has kept hold of the Liverpool armband since 2015 and their rapid rise during that time is no coincidence. With him as skipper, their league finishes have gone from eighth, to fourth, to fourth, to second in 2018-19. Now they sit top of the tree at Christmas and 14 of the 27 teams to manage that in Premier League history went on to win the title at the end of the season. With an 11-point lead over Manchester City and a game in hand, Liverpool already have one hand on the trophy.
All of this sudden success could not be happening to a nicer man. Speaking to friends at Liverpool, a lot of what Henderson does goes unnoticed. As a former captain of that football club, I know what it takes. Being a skipper in football is not the same as cricket, but it takes sacrifice and Henderson knows how to create a certain atmosphere. He is unselfish. You may have a stinker on a Saturday but when you rock up at Melwood on a Monday morning, you had better be ready to pick up the pieces for your team-mates. He does that. He may have concerns about his own form, but he will always think about how he can help others first. He is the manager on the pitch to a certain extent. He is Klopp’s go-to guy, his earpiece.
To be named Liverpool captain was the greatest achievement of my career. I wore the armband with pride and Henderson does too. That club deserved to be named champions of the world on Saturday and anyone who says this trophy does not matter is deluded.
This was a trophy the club had never won before, despite those iconic teams of the Eighties coming so close. For the 2019-20 edition to win that final against Flamengo at the weekend was big. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.