Jordan Henderson's start to life under manager Brendan Rodgers wasn't what anybody would call smooth or easy. When Rodgers arrived at Anfield last summer, his first priority was to bring midfielder Joe Allen along with him to the tune of £15M, with his favoured pupil instantly installed ahead of Henderson on the depth chart. Henderson did what he always did when faced with difficulty as a footballer—he put his head down and worked harder.
Then, Rodgers attempted to sell him, looking to shift Henderson to Fulham along with a handful of cash as make-weight in his failed bid for generally unpleasant attacking midfielder Clint Dempsey. Luckily for Rodgers, Henderson was determined to resist the move and fight for his spot on Merseyside, as in retrospect it seems a potential deal that could have massively damaged the manager's fledgling career at the club.
It took nearly three months for Henderson to be handed his first start under Rodgers, and when it finally did come it was only the result of Allen's growing injury concerns, as the diminutive midfielder's damaged shoulder meant an ever increasing struggle to deliver in his first Liverpool season. Now, finally, more than a year after Rodgers arrived, Henderson seems to have won the manager over—regardless the fitness and form of others.
"I feel as though I've progressed over the last year or two," said Henderson of the improvement forced by his struggles at Liverpool, where following a hefty £16M plus add-ons arrival he was shunted to a position he was clearly less comfortable in to replace established club cult hero Dirk Kuyt. It was no surprise he struggled then, and just when he seemed to grow in comfort in confidence Brendan Rodgers arrival seemed to knock him back again—though Henderson believes Rodgers has in the end helped his game.
"I'll try and push on," he added. "The manager has been brilliant with me and everybody else here. He's been fantastic on a personal level. I think I've improved my game since he's come to the club and he's helped me to do that. We worked very hard pre-season and then in the games we have looked pretty solid as a team. The manager has definitely been working on that during the pre-season."
Having finally grown too old to captain England's U21 side, Henderson finds himself for the first time in his senior career staying back at his club when teammates head off on international duty. It's a big change for the midfielder—and if Roy Hodgson has any sense it's a change that won't last for very long—but for now, Henderson's focused on spending the time improving his game as Liverpool look to build off a strong start to the season.
"Last three home games we've done really well," he said. "We've got a lot of momentum after the first three games of the season. A lot of the lads are now on international duty, but from the people who are here, there's a good aura about the place and hopefully when the lads come back, we can focus on Swansea.
"There's always room for improvement and I'm sure we'll work on that. But we've got to be very pleased with the three results. Beating Manchester United gave us a great boost and it kept the winning mentality and the momentum going, but we know that it's going to be difficult in our next few games, so we'll have to keep focused and hopefully we can keep putting in performances like that."