Luis Suarez was voted Liverpool's Player of the Season by his peers, an honor the Uruguayan was quick to share with Steven Gerrard. Raheem Sterling was the club's Young Player of the Season, and one would imagine that, depending on the criteria, Daniel Sturridge was in the running for one or both. Each of the four had standout seasons and would have been worthy winners in their own right.
And yet, over the course of the past three weeks, few have seemed more important to Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool than Jordan Henderson, who served a three-match ban after his rash tackle on Samir Nasri in the win over Manchester City was deservedly met with a red card. Neither the sending off nor the manner in which it was received were surprising--the tackle was poor, and the closing down late in a match that had already seen Henderson exhaust endless reserves of energy has become a hallmark of the midfielder's game. He might not have turned the tide against Chelsea or staved off Crystal Palace's late comeback, but his energy, pressing, and improved confidence in a role he's made his own would have surely benefited Liverpool as it had for most of the season.
The absence was an excruciating one for the player, who earlier today noted that "it's hard, because you want to play. You're frustrated because you're not out there. But you're just like a fan really, you want the lads to do well. I kick every ball when I'm watching. And you do see a different side to the game. I learnt a few new things in those three games."
His pain will be assuaged by a likely return to the starting eleven in the season's final match against Newcastle, and if reports are to be believed tonight, that return comes as he gets set to sign a deal to keep him at the club. The Mirror's Ed Maylon is reporting that the deal will see Henderson stay at Liverpool for at least four more seasons, and there are few arguments remaining that securing his services longer-term is anything but good news.
There's little chance he ever possesses the skills of those named in the opening paragraph, but it's clear at this point that his place in the squad is an invaluable one. At 23 years old--he'll hopefully be celebrating his 24th birthday in Brazil with England's World Cup squad--he's asserted himself as one of the leaders in this Liverpool squad, showing the way forward with a relentless work ethic and commitment to the cause that should serve as an example for years to come.