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Jordan Henderson is our underrated captain

This week marks three years since Jordan Henderson was officially named captain of Liverpool, following the departure of Steven Gerrard.

Posted by Andy Thompson
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Three years and there are still people who malign him in the position, sneer at his very presence in the club. Three years and there are still people who delight in his absence through injury or selection.

Honestly, it’s embarrassing.

Yet, there are still so many people out there who hold his first season and £20 million price tag against him.

Just a small reminder that that was eight years ago.

Henderson came to Liverpool as a twenty year old kid, leaving his boyhood club for a new challenge. He had the chance to leave, to accept that this behemoth of a club had defeated him, that he was – as too many people say – not good enough to wear the Red shirt.

He chose to stay, to prove himself to his managers and teammates, and was named captain, successor to arguably the best player to wear the armband. Jordan Henderson to score against Belgium is 9/1.

There are still fans, insanely to me, that need to be won over. That probably won’t ever be won over, because it’s personal at this point. Their dislike of him is so inexplicable, when the facts are there and are backed up by people who know Henderson personally, that I know it’s a losing battle at this point.

Those people are really sad and frustrating to me.

They’re missing out on one of the best, understated performances for Liverpool, in a long time. They’re maligning the best possible successor to Steven Gerrard, the mentee that lived and breathed and played in Gerrard’s gigantic shadow for 5 years.

“Finally, they see Jordan Henderson,” Jürgen Klopp said recently.

He’s not flashy. He’s never had a double-digit goal season, but he’s not there for goals (but 30 in his career isn’t something to sniff at for a central midfielder). He gets a lot of criticism for his safe passing, but he has an 84% average passing accuracy. Henderson would much rather feed the star players like Suarez or Coutinho or now Salah and Firmino – and he has with his 53 career assists. He regularly runs over 10 km a match, positioning himself to better serve the team, not himself. Jordan Henderson to provide an assist against Belgium is 9/2 with RedsBet.

Stats are great. Opta recently released that he’s England’s lucky charm – they have only lost one match in the last 31 in which he’s started, and that was this most recent World Cup semi-final against Croatia. (I’d even argue it was because he was taken off, honestly).

The thing about Hendo is that he has a lot of unquantifiable qualities. How do you measure those leadership qualities he’s gained over the years? His maturity? His self-sacrificing nature? The comfort he brings to his teammates, the literal engine, the heartbeat. Teammates have spoken often about his open door policy. He took over the media duties during the 13/14 season after his red card banned him for three matches (the only red card of his career) – while his father was being treated for throat cancer. Liverpool have won far more games with him in the starting XI than they’ve ever lost. Klopp himself has said, many times, how much he rates the midfielder and “if he’s fit, he starts.” Henderson to be awarded Man of the Match agains Belgium is 16/1.

What about this is so repugnant to people? What makes him a consistently bad player, as opposed to the gifted footballer that Klopp, Gerrard, and Gareth Southgate have all seen? Why would you rather look for his mistakes, judge his positioning or the way he passes the ball (with an accuracy that’s astounding to me, who can’t kick a ball where she wants it to go to save her life), than celebrate a player who leads our midfield every time he’s on the pitch?

Why would anyone insist on watching for the mistakes, when there are so many good things about his performance to watch?

The truth is that he’s not going anywhere. He made his commitment to the club three years ago when he became our captain, when he happily took over that armband and those boots to fill. When he chose to play for Liverpool instead of Fulham, even if that meant not as much minutes while he made himself better.

Jordan Henderson is more than numerical stats and percentages. He’s our captain, our leader, our heartbeat. Naby Keïta isn’t a replacement for him, Fabinho isn’t a replacement for him because the things that Henderson offers are irreplaceable.  He’ll start in some form of the number 6 role he played, and thrived in, last season, and he’ll be bossing our midfield to whatever elusive trophy is within our grasp.

Whether you like it or not.

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