The Incredible Rise Of Henderson As He Celebrates 9 Years At Liverpool

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If following Sir Alex Ferguson at [/sport/teampages/manchester-united.html Manchester United] was the toughest job in football, taking the captain's armband from Steve Gerrard at [/sport/teampages/liverpool.html Liverpool] ran it a close second.
Certainly, Jordan Henderson has done far better with his challenge than the succession of managers at Old Trafford.
It is exactly nine years ago since Henderson signed for Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool from [/sport/teampages/sunderland.html Sunderland]. During that time he's come close to leaving, had his running style mocked and been made chief scapegoat whenever Liverpool struggled.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson can raise a smile as he celebrates nine years at the club
He has passed the test to make the grade at Liverpool and is now an integral part of their XI
Now the midfielder is on the cusp of guiding Liverpool to their maiden Premier League title
Yet he's overcome it all and can celebrate his 30th birthday later this month with his reputation at an all-time high.
Liverpool's Champions League triumph last May meant Henderson became the first Liverpool skipper since Gerrard to lift Europe's biggest prize and the embrace he gave his father after the final whistle has become an iconic image.
In an era when a lack of leaders on the pitch is often bemoaned, Henderson stands out a mile. When England met Croatia behind closed doors in 2018, it was his voice heard loudest, www.ultra-ict.com even though Harry Kane wore the armband.
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Lifting the Premier League in the next few weeks, the first Liverpool captain to do so for 30 years, would be the icing on the cake and vindicates Gerrard's decision to publicly back Henderson as captain when he left in 2015.
'I knew he could do it. When you go up against someone in training, even when they are younger and people don't have the respect they have now, you appreciated the shape he was in,' reflects Gerrard, arguably the club's greatest-ever player.
'You saw the power of him, the fitness of him. The way he lived his life. Sometimes you look at people in the dressing-room and go 'You're at it'. He gave himself the best chance.
Henderson has experience of lifting silverware - doing so with the Champions League last term
'When you know someone's personality and how much they want it even during setbacks, you think 'fair play' when I look at Jordan now.
'What he does for a team is stuff people don't even think about. The dirty running back, the second balls. Jordan will deliver 13kms Saturday-Wednesday when maverick players will pick and choose.
'Successful teams can't function unless you have a cog like Jordan Henderson.'
Not everyone thought like Gerrard during Henderson's difficult opening years at Anfield.
He arrived at a club in transition following the disastrous ending of the Tom Hicks-George Gillett era and a squad in the midst of a radical overhaul following unsuccessful spells for players like Paul Konchesky, Christian Poulsen and Joe Cole.
Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard (right) was always confident Henderson would succeed him
But despite Gerrard's approval, not everyone was convinced about Henderson's qualities
None of that was Henderson's fault but he was still judged by the standards of Liverpool's great midfielders of the past; serial trophy winners like Terry McDermott, Graeme Souness and Gerrard in his prime.
The pressure wasn't eased by a passage in Sir Alex Ferguson's 2013 autobiography in which he claimed United weren't interested in signing Henderson because of the way he ran.
'We noticed that Henderson runs from his knees, with a straight back, while the modern footballer runs from his hips. We thought his gait might cause him problems later in his career,' said Fergie.
Brendan Rodgers had arrived at Anfield to succeed Dalglish in 2012 and Henderson was offered to Fulham in an exchange deal which would have taken American international Clint Dempsey the other way.
'Brendan called me in and said 'Listen, this is the offer' and he asked me what I thought,' revealed Henderson later.
Brendan Rodgers (right) was open to selling Henderson to Fulham upon his arrival as manager
'It implied that it was up to me. I went back to my room. I shed a few tears. I ended up crying a little bit because it hurt so much.
'I spoke to my agent and told him what had happened and I said I didn't want to go. I wanted to stay and fight and try and improve and try to prove the manager wrong.'
Former director of football Damien Comolli blamed Henderson for his sacking in 2012 by current owners Fenway Sports Group. Speaking in 2016 to talkSPORT he said: 'Henderson is one of the main reasons I got sacked. The day I got sacked they told me I had made a big mistake on Jordan and he was a waste of money.'
Henderson made enough progress to be part of the 2014/15 Liverpool side that came so close to ending their trophy drought. But even then Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho won the praise, Henderson's unselfish work in midfield was often overlooked, and he was criticised for playing too safe with his passing, and not creating or scoring enough goals.
Even Jurgen Klopp wasn't convinced in his first season. He had a definite plan of how he wanted Liverpool to play and Henderson had to prove he fitted.
Former director of football Damien Comolli (left) blamed Henderson for his sacking in 2012
'I had a chat to Jordan in L.A.' reveals Gerrard, who ended his career with Los Angeles Galaxy in 2016. 'He wasn't sure if he was coming or going. I remember saying to him 'Don't give up on Liverpool. You'll be fine'. I knew what he had inside him, that he would get there.
'Jordan deserves all the credit. What he's added is better passing range, backing himself. He's lifted the European Cup above his head and obviously he'll become a Premier League champion soon.'
Like Gerrard, former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is a huge admirer of the way Henderson has battled back from adversity to become Anfield's new Captain Fantastic.
'People like Jordan have something special about them, you never write these players off,' he told Sky Sports' The Football Show.
'Even after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has come in, Naby Keita has come in, Henderson still plays. It's a testament to his character.
Even current manager Jurgen Klopp (left) wasn't convinced by Henderson upon his arrival too
'The two biggest clubs are Liverpool and Manchester United and it's not easy. A lot of great players can't cope, playing with that scrutiny. That shows what quality he's got.
'He's going to go down as one of those great Liverpool captains who's won loads of trophies.
'I actually thought (Sadio) Mane was the best Liverpool player when the season stopped, but I don't think there's a better player to be given Player of the Year than Henderson.'
Over time, Klopp recognised that Henderson not only had the athleticism and composure on the ball to be a regular in his Liverpool team, he is also the captain and leader that great Premier League teams need. From Roy Keane's Manchester United to Patrick Vieira's Arsenal, John Terry's Chelsea to Vincent Kompany at Manchester City.
Henderson's current influence in the dressing-room and beyond can not be overstated. Even in lockdown, he's used his status to get Premier League stars together and spearhead a Players' Together campaign to raise money for the NHS.
Henderson has changed Klopp's way of thinking and has improved greatly under the German
England manager Gareth Southgate thought seriously about making Henderson his World Cup captain before opting for Kane.
When Henderson made his 50th appearance for England, Southgate was glowing in his praise. 'Everybody values the fact that he has a winning mentality. Good players make other players play well,' he asserted.
'It's not just about your own performance, but the impact and effect you have on others. When you're a leader like he is, that is among his top qualities.'
Henderson's drive and determination has also impressed Gary Neville, who believes the midfielder is following a similar path to his former team-mate, Manchester United great Keane.
'I love him to bits, his professionalism is unbelievable,' Neville said on Sky Sports' The Football Show.
England manager Gareth Southgate (right) thinks highly of Henderson within his setup
'Henderson was belittled in his early days by Liverpool fans and those outside the club, he was always compared with Gerrard unfairly.
'There comes a point where the older one has to leave for the younger one to come through. When Gerrard retired, you started to see Jordan grow a bit.
'I suspect that's what happened at Liverpool. It happened where Steve Bruce and Bryan Tobson left (Manchester United) and Roy Keane emerged as this great captain.
'I don't think you're seeing the best he (Henderson) can be as a leader. He's now becoming successful then he'll have a real impact and a voice in the changing room.
'What the league title will give him is respect around Europe, in the dressing room and across the game. He won't be in the top three (Liverpool) captains but he could grow above them.'
After nine years at the club, the 29-year-old Wearsider is now an honourary Scouser 
Klopp probably couldn't imagine Liverpool without Hendo. The boy from Wearside is now an honorary Scouser like Dalglish, who came to England from Glasgow at the peak of his career and liked the area so much, he stayed after retirement.
Henderson is the glue that allows full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to bomb forward and Mo Salah and Sadio Mane to do their stuff at the top end of the pitch.
And he's also capable of scoring the occasional goal himself, usually important. A half-volley against Spurs in October instigated a Liverpool comeback after they trailed to Kane's first-minute goal. A thumping header at Molineux in January helped Liverpool beat Wolves 2-1.
'It's just another side of his outstanding shape,' explains Klopp. 'He keeps people on their toes but it's not about the shouting, it's about what he says.
'He only asks for things he expects from himself as well. We couldn't be in the situation we are without these kinds of characters.'
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