At 22 years old Jordan Henderson has won 3 consecutive Young Player of the Year awards at Sunderland and Liverpool respectively, tonight he captained the England U21’s in a major play off stage and has made 5 full England international caps to his name. Despite all of these positives Jordan is constantly put down by rival fans (which you come to expect) and more depressingly our own. There will be some reading this that’ll be set in their ways, no matter how many times they’re told he’s a good player, it’ll always fall on deaf ears. I want to express a few reasons to why I feel he needs to be given more space to shine, and the time to develop, so to do this I’ll draw comparisons to fellow team mates and maybe provide a fairer look at his career so far.
The Price Tag
Whether it’s 20 million, 16 million or chocolate coins a players price shouldn’t be the only thing you judge a player on, I do feel however that with Henderson, that is close to the only thing he’s judged on. When you compare Henderson to his peers on the international stage in terms of age; Wilshere, Cleverley, Shelvey, McEachran and Rodwell until Manchester City bought Jack Rodwell all these players differed to Henderson and all of which were without a price tag that brings great pressure. Wilshere, Cleverley and McEachran came through their respective academies and have done well; none have been bought for a hefty chunk of change. Because Jonjo Shelvey was bought for a small fraction of the fee that was spent on Jordan our view and opinion is altered as soon as he’s stepped foot on the pitch. Jonjo wasn’t bought as the finished article and it’s important to note that neither was Henderson. Henderson’s price comes down to poor negotiation upstairs on our end but also how far along he was in his progression as a footballer. Jonjo Shelvey got sent off against United for a rash challenge, whole hearted, but unnecessary. We put it down to inexperience and youthful exuberance; I imagine that had Henderson committed the same sin people would have ripped him apart, he’d have “bottled it in a big game” or something similarly reactionary. I’m not saying be soft on him, I’m saying be fair.
Lucas Leiva syndrome
You might be able to predict what I’m about to say, remember when Lucas was bought, remember what happened after his first season which wasn’t the best. I can’t include myself in this but many and I mean MANY people wrote Lucas’ Anfield career off there and then. He was under pressure and had Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano ahead of him, Nuri Sahin, Gerrard and Lucas himself now stand in the way of anyone looking to push through. Lucas and Henderson both came as unknowns, and before you jump on that comment and say “I saw all of Gremios games the season before he signed for Liverpool” or “I’d read Jordan Henderson’s Wikipedia page 4 times before we bought him”, what I’m saying is neither players were on the wide spread ‘fan radar’, neither are marque signings and neither came with polished first team careers. (Although Henderson did have a good season prior to joining Liverpool) It took Lucas a couple of years to find his feet and status in the Liverpool starting 11 and it might just take Henderson the same. I’m not saying be soft on him, I’m saying be fair.
How many players have you seen throw their toys out of the pram when they’ve been played out of position or not played at all? I imagine you could name a few without even really having to think about it. Henderson was signed and told LFC TV that he’d happily play anywhere (which he has to say) but would PREFER to play in the middle. For the U21’s he plays in the middle and found most success for Sunderland playing in the middle. In his first season due to a lack of wide options he found himself stuck on the right, looking quite uncomfortable and more worried about the shape of the team than what he could do to impress those sitting in The Kop. Not once did I read a story of unrest in camp Henderson, nor did he ever look not to be trying. He openly admits that he’s got a lot to learn and that he’s at the right club to help him develop. In the games he has featured in this year I think he’s been very good, he’s taken on board the Rodgers philosophy and applies himself well. He looks comfortable picking the ball up from a defender turning and giving it. In the game against Young Boys in particular he picked up 2 assists, both of which showed a calm head to play the right pass and a week later he provided a similar quality of performance against West Brom in the Capital One Cup. If his attitude ever differs then you’ve the right to be as hard as you like on him but I’m still saying be fair.
In summary, I’m the same age as Jordan Henderson and wonder how I’d cope with getting stick so frequently from my own fans, for my money, he copes excellently. His head stays down and his legs work hard. He’s far from the finished article but if his progression continues on the same path which has rewarded him with Young Player of the Year at his clubs 3 years in a row then in a couple of years we might just have a super player on our hands. I like Jordan Henderson.
As ever if you want to talk more with me about this article contact me via twitter @DoctorBenjy