After joining up with Roy Hodgson's England squad at Euro 2012, Jordan Henderson stepped back down to the U21s for their own European Championship qualifiers, and yesterday captained them to a 1-0 win over Serbia in the first-leg of the final qualifying tie. He's been a mainstay as captain at that level, and if today is any indication, a more permanent stay in the full England setup might not be too far away.
That'll sound ridiculous to many, especially those who are still stuck on the price tag and haven't taken any time to actually pay attention to the type of performances that Henderson has been able to produce in limited action in the middle of the pitch. He certainly won't do it on the strength of public opinion, mostly for the aforementioned reasons, but rather if he's able to continue to maintain the type of work ethic he's displayed during a challenging season and change at Liverpool, as well as an attitude that'll see him overcome the generally negative or indifferent sentiment that seems to surround him.
He acknowledges as much in an exclusive with Neil Jones from the Liverpool Echo:
"You just have to believe in your own ability, believe that you are a good enough player and then show it. Obviously when a new manager comes into a club then things can change, that's natural. Brendan Rodgers has come in and has been brilliant for me personally. He has definitely helped me improve different parts of my game already.
"I think in the games I have managed to play, you can see that I have improved upon certain things, and that is because of him. The areas he has asked me to work on were mostly to do with discipline, and tactical awareness in the team. I've developed my understanding of when to go forward, when to stay and things like that. I think you can see there is a lot more maturity in my performances, and I think that is down to his guidance."
It'd be easy for the player to be more disgruntled or displeased, particularly after Kenny Dalglish played him through thick and thin last season, albeit consistently out of position and undeservedly ahead of players who were more experienced and effective. But Henderson's perspective--one of learning from challenges and accepting that growth is necessary--will hopefully pay dividends down the road, and my hope is that those rewards are reaped at Liverpool rather than somewhere else.
You wouldn't think that displays against Udinese in the Europa League and West Brom in the League Cup are going to drive him any further away from Liverpool, although if rumors over the summer are to be believed his status at the club will continue to be tenuous. If that's what we get from him while he's still with the club, though, we can't complain, and further improvements will only be to Liverpool's benefit.
**H/T to janeytee for the link in the comments section yesterday**