These quotes are a from a terrific extract in Simon Hughes’ book Allez Allez Allez – which profiles our Champions League winning season – which we’d encourage you to buy and read!
In a section regarding Jordan Henderson, Hughes spoke to Michael Ball, a former Sunderland captain who coached Henderson while he was coming through their youth ranks.
As a teenager, Hendo impressed enormously and was eventually snapped up by Liverpool in 2011 – but we rarely hear about what type of player he was in these days.
According to Ball, Hendo was creative and exceptionally talented – to the point that one day in training he was left ‘gobsmacked’ by a piece of skill the midfielder produced.
However, Ball says that it’s Hendo’s ability to withhold his natural instincts and perfectly obey his manager’s commands that’s helped make him a European Cup winning Liverpool captain and automatic England starter.
“A first-team manager wants a player who understands his tactical responsibilities and to follow instructions without any recourse,” Ball began. “Even though Jordan was a creative player in Sunderland’s youth system, he was always willing to sacrifice his own game for the good of the team. At Liverpool and with England, managers have always selected him because he does what they want. He has sacrificed a lot of his game for the good of those around him. I know what else he can do because I’ve seen it.” Ball recounted Henderson’s artistry in a game where he picked his way out of a problem by fooling two opponents in one turn: “I was gobsmacked, it was an unbelievable bit of skill. Initially I questioned whether he should have tried it but when players are gifted to that degree, you don’t coach them at that age – you guide them.”
Ball first came across Henderson when he was 15. Ball was the Under-18s coach as well as the assistant academy manager: “He was coming up to the time where players sign new scholarship forms. You knew he had the ability, you knew he had the desire, you knew he had the temperament, you knew he had the attitude. Now, he’s like an Adonis – a man mountain. Opponents bounce off him, he’s made himself very strong. When he was younger, though, we wondered whether he’d develop physically because he had quite a way to go. We decided he was so talented he was worth waiting for.”
We cannot wait to see Henderson, fully fit and full of confidence after what happened in Madrid, take on this season from a box-to-box no.8 role.
It’s his best position and he produced some very notable performances here at the back end of 2018/19.
He has the likes of Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gini Wijnaldum to compete with, but as Ball suggests, there’ll be nobody Klopp trusts more to fulfil his tactical ideas than his skipper.