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Henderson Staying Positive

This summer Jordan Henderson will likely captain England's Under 21s during the European Championships in Israel, after becoming, arguably, Liverpool's most improved player this season. His future may be distressingly unclear, but our number 14 is calm and upbeat, as ever.

Chris Brunskill

Studying the body language of both men, as Brendan Rodgers gives a last minute pep-talk to Jordan Henderson, before one of the 15 appearances he's made from the bench this season, I've often wondered what is really going on in their minds. Behind the youngster's placid, vaguely dim expression and beneath that hair-product-laden, fabulously coiffured barnet, is he seething with the rage of rejection? Despite the manager's avuncular, tactile and oddly creepy face-rubbing and backside-patting, is he really utterly indifferent to the young midfielder?

For those who have been vociferously pro-Henderson, even in the dark days of his right wing period under Dalglish, - and no, that's not a political reference - it's been tremendously gratifying to witness his development into a confident, mobile and effective performer this year.

Much lazy punditry centred on the transfer fee paid for the Sunderland native and he had to endure the groans of the whingers in the stadium and the vitriol of the whiners on the phone-ins throughout much of last year. Henderson, however, has overcome his difficult start, only to find that the greatest challenge to his Liverpool career is his manager's apparent eagerness to overlook him as a starter and move him on at the earliest opportunity.

Enough time has been spent discussing the merits or tragically flawed logic of Rodgers' selection policy, as it specifically relates to Henderson and Joe Allen. Suffice it to say, that his lack of first team action, in combination with the incessant transfer rumblings, has caused many of us to be rather fatalistic about the chances of the England regular being a fixture at Anfield next season.

Henderson's attitude and public utterances continue to be exemplary. Whereas Rodgers has undermined his frequent praise of the midfielder by his reluctance to trust him, the player has remained upbeat and philosophical about his situation, taking his chances whenever they have arisen. The fact remains that Henderson has played minutes on 38 occasions this season.

"I've improved a lot since I came to the club which is one of the main reasons I joined. I knew it would help me improve as a player and I think I've improved as a person as well, on and off the pitch. Hopefully I can keep improving and keep getting more game time. I tend to go into games and approach them all the same."

The 22 year old was restrained and diplomatic on the topic of his irregular selection and chose to focus instead on the merits of being part of the team.

"The main thing is that the team win at the end of the day, even if you don't play well but the team wins, that is the most important thing. but yes, there have been games when I've thought I'd played well and was improving all the time. I just need to carry on doing it."

With an optimism about his Liverpool future that some of us do not share, Henderson was insistent that the summer tournament will not impact on his preparation for next season despite the "heat and intensity" of the five potential matches for his country. Brendan Rodgers has shown that he is not incapable of change and adaptation and I will not be alone in hoping that a regular berth for Jordan Henderson in 2013/2014 is proof of that.

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