20 million quid. A 21 year old bought from Sunderland. Not many knew the name, not many had seen him play. Fans questioned the club’s transfer policy. Overpaying for average players had become a dictum Liverpool Football Club adhered to with minimal deviation. Alberto Aquilani and Riera come to mind when you think about players who have failed at the club. Liverpool paid a considerable sum to secure their services. It is curious that players of such undisputed talent failed to acclimatize themselves to the Premier League. When Jordan Henderson was recruited for a humongous fee of 20 million, I sat at home wondering if we had another Aquilani or Riera at hand. A player who would give us a few good performances and then fade into oblivion. Who would then be sold to another club for minimal resale value. “20 million quid for a 21 year old?” read the headlines on several websites after he was signed. I doubt there were any Liverpool fans who would’ve considered the deal a great piece of business by the club. A relatively unproven talent for so much money is a deal even a 10 year old football fan won’t agree with. However, such is the over-valuation of English players that everyone reserved their judgment for the future when they’ve seen Henderson showcase himself on the field.
Considered a bit too young for a central midfield role at a big club, by the manager Dalglish, Henderson’s career began on the right-wing for Liverpool. Blessed with great athleticism, Henderson coped with the battle reasonably well. He had the pace to go past a full-back, the defensive nous to help his team’s right back in defense and be available as an outlet on the wing for the central midfielders to ping balls to. However, what Henderson lacked was the flair, the occasional showboating skills, to go past multiple defenders if need be. For any observer, it seemed conspicuous that he found the role relatively uncomfortable. Delegating a natural midfielder to an outing on the wing seldom works out. Gerrard himself has played there before but he rarely had the same influence on a game from out wide than from a central role. The above-average performances of Henderson over several matches let to disapproving murmurs being heard amongst the fans. Comments such as “Here we go again, another average player in our ranks!” or “Did we really pay 20 million pounds for that kid?” could be read all over Facebook or over the club’s forum webpage. His average performances led to him being reserved to the bench for the latter part of Dalglish’s spell as manager. Even Rodgers earlier considered him an entity he could discard and reclaim a small amount of the 20 million paid.
However, Henderson wasn’t to be put down by a relegation to the bench or by being considered a superfluous entity at the club. He is the kind of player who would run through a brick wall for the club if he had to. After declining Rodgers’ proposal of a move to Fulham, Henderson continued to work tirelessly to improve his technical skills. Now, he has gradually become a player Rodgers would hesitate to put on the bench, let alone dispense with completely. Henderson’s an invaluable asset to the club sole for his desire and energy. Seldom have I seen a Liverpool player run up and down the pitch for the entirety of a game. Last I remember it was another English midfielder who was omnipresent on the pitch, jumping into tackles and setting up attacks in an instant. Yes, Henderson might not possess the thunderous right foot of Gerrard or his tackling ability, but what he does possess is Gerrard’s insatiable desire to win and his limitless energy of days past. The medical team recently stated that they fear for players like Henderson and Suarez who they believe would play every day of the week if they could. They love football and want success more than anything. It is these breed of players that form the heart of a club and are the players we turn to for inspiration. You’d never hear a fan criticize Henderson’s performance for lack of drive or purpose. They know that when he walks onto the pitch, he is a fan himself who’d do anything to secure victory for his club.
I for one have utmost respect for players who never give up. On countless occasions, I have seen Henderson sprinting back to win the ball after a team-mate lost it in the opposition’s half. If football was a game where you had to rack up “distance covered” numbers, Henderson would be out of sight by half-way into the season itself. His desire is evident from his passionate goal celebrations too. Fans love his celebrations more than his goals, for all fans love players who display the same fervor and zest as them.
With the season entering the last few games, I am assured that Jordan Henderson would have a major part to play in deciding where we finish this season. After his peerless performance against Swansea which was studded with two well taken goals, no one can doubt his value to the side. Roy Hodgson himself acknowledged the midfielder’s stellar form and rewarded him with a start for England this past week. If Henderson continues to run amok in games with the same drive, it’s hard to see how he doesn’t deserve to start in Brazil.
I’m sure Henderson will keep putting in Herculean efforts on the field for every game in his career and we should be glad we have such a player in our ranks. Gerrard’s retirement in the future would require someone to fill in his boots. The task of replacing such a legend might seem daunting but then Henderson is no ordinary individual.