Jordan Henderson does not get the credit his vital role at Liverpool deserves

Jordan Henderson does not get the credit his vital role at Liverpool deserves
Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates scoring a goal. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

It's a bit early to be having the conversation, but this is an unusually advanced season in the Premier League. So, as an antidote to actual work, a few of us here on the hill in Blackpool debated who would claim the PFA Player-of-the-Year award.

One colleague, a Spurs fan who knows a thing or two about the ways of the betting world, felt that Liverpool’s Trent Alexander Arnold (TAA) must be a shoo-in for the top individual players’ award. And with some logic.

The young Scouser is having an extraordinary season with his hometown club. His raids down the wings along with his counterpart across the field, Andy Robertson, have redefined the full-back position leaving defences in a tissy and racking up as many assists in a season than most players would be proud of completing over an entire career.

His impact on the game and for Liverpool, in particular, cannot be denied and the enthusiasm of his attacking play and the quality of his crosses have been so staggering that if he won the top player gong it would not be a surprise.

Without doubt, the 21-year-old will be the Young Player of the Year and is the comfortable 1/8 favourite with most bookies. But to add the senior award on the same year is a rare occurrence, with Andy Gray, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Gareth Bale the only players ever to claim both awards on the same year.

He is in with a strong shout for both prizes. But the youngster is only running in fourth place with the oddsmakers, behind teammates Virgil van Dijk, and Sadio Mané, Man City’s Kevin de Bruyne and finally, his captain Jordan Henderson.

And it is Henderson that I consider deserves the consideration for the award even if Mané and in some cases, de Bruyne are riding higher in the betting charts than the Sunderland native.

Henderson, it can be argued, is seriously undervalued by many within the game. His reserved nature, lack of swagger, and commitment to the cause of the team has resulted in some ignoring his impact on the team.

His sacrifice of ego for the benefit of Liverpool has sometimes seen his profile take a backseat while the team and more high-profile players steal the limelight of success.

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson speaks to manager Jurgen Klopp. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Liverpool's Jordan Henderson speaks to manager Jurgen Klopp. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Quietly working the midfield, he often is used as a utility to block gaps in the squad putting in a shift beyond what is expected of others. That’s not to say he is just a water-carrier, far from it. Henderson is not a prolific scorer but he is regularly the man on the spot when it comes to important goals, often when Liverpool's famous front three are having a bad day.

Henderson’s assists should not be sneezed at either. While not in the league of TAA or Robertson, he does pop up with some crucial passes for Liverpool’s frontmen, often with a flair his mentor, Steven Gerrard, would be proud of.

His work as captain is probably his biggest gift to the team. He is regularly seen pushing on the players around and while others in midfield like Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keita, and Fabinho may be are more technically gifted than the Englishman, it is Jordan that often ties them together getting more out of them, urging them on when their heads drop. Henderson provides the security to allow others the liberty to go forward, he links wonderfully with the defence and often provides the first line of security to assist the defenders. His enthusiasm to do the dogged hunting down of opponents in the Klopp-style inspires those around him to put in the shift they see their captain is willing to do. The result has seen him lift the Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup, and 'presumably' the Premier League trophies in the space of a year. No bad boast.

To emphasise his importance to the team one just has to look back a few years to when his absence cost Liverpool dearly.

The 2013/14 season will go down as the year Liverpool went heartbreakingly close to breaking their Premier League duck. It’s the season opposing fans like to remind Liverpool fans that Gerrard’s ‘slip’ against Chelsea that fateful day in Anfield cost them their date with destiny.

But the real critical event happened two weeks earlier when Henderson received a straight red in Liverpool’s 3-2 victory over the eventual champions Man City on a sunny day when it looked like the league title would finally go the Merseysiders’ way. A late misjudged tackle on a City player saw Henderson get a straight red and a three-match ban. Not a lot was made of it at the time but in those three games, Liverpool lost their dominance in midfield and witnessed that defeat to Chelsea and a nightmare midweek capitulation to Crystal Place from 3-0 up at half-time to 3-3 at full-time.

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson walks off after being shown a red card by referee Mark Clattenburg. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Liverpool's Jordan Henderson walks off after being shown a red card by referee Mark Clattenburg. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The 'slip' was pointed to as Liverpool’s moment of failure that year but Henderson’s absence over those crucial games was far more significant than any other reason as the side lost its confidence in the midfield.

It’s, therefore, telling that when Henderson hobbled off against Atletico Madrid with an injury that would see him out for three weeks that it coincided with the first serious slump of the season experienced by his team and saw the end of their unbeaten run in the league.

There may be other reasons as well, but Liverpool have not looked as sharp since their captain’s absence and after another defeat in the FA Cup this midweek, Liverpool may be rather anxious to see a speedy return of their talisman.

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