Yes, hi, hello. As we’re all mentally and emotionally preparing for (probably) the biggest final of the last five years, the boys are too. They recently spent a week in sunny Marbella, soaking up the warmth in one of Klopp’s patented warm weather training camps, to prepare for this dramatic trip to Kiev. The anxiety and pressure of it all has definitely given me a couple of grey hairs already so I can’t imagine how the boys are feeling - although from the sounds of this latest interview with captain Jordan Henderson, it could sound just fine. All of that attitude, though, comes from who he is as a person.
Oliver Hunt of the Mail recently was lucky enough to travel to Marbella and meet with Henderson during the training camp. He got some one on one time with our skipper, sitting in the sun on a balcony, and gave us some particularly lovely insight into Hendo’s mind, and heart. By now we probably all know the story of how Brendan Rodgers tried to swap Jordan Henderson for Clint Dempsey back in 2012, just a year after signing for Liverpool. Thankfully that deal fell apart, mainly because of Hendo’s insistence that he wanted to stay with the Reds. Thank god. It was just before the Europa match against Hearts when Rodgers broke the news.
“Brendan called me in and said “Listen, this is the offer” and he asked me what I thought,” says Henderson. “It implied to me that he would let me leave and it was up to me. I went back to my room. I shed a few tears. I ended up crying a little bit because it hurt so much. I had the game that night to think about it as well.
“I spoke to my agent and told him what had happened and I said I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay and fight and try and improve and try to prove the manager wrong. My agent agreed. I spoke to my dad. He was gutted but he backed my decision to stay and fight.
“From that point, I just kept my head down. I knew I wouldn’t get as much game time as I wanted but I still had faith. I was young enough to get my head down, keep working hard, do my extra bits and prove them wrong and I feel I managed to do that by the time Brendan left. There are always those moments in football — and life in general — which can decide the path and the route you go down. For me it was never an option to leave.”
It’s that kind of self-sacrificing attitude that has helped him maintain his spot with the Reds, and brought him to the level needed to be leading them in the biggest game of his career. Learning and maturing through that difficult time, made all the more difficult by his father’s battle with throat cancer in 2013, helped mold him into the kind of captain that Liverpool needed following the departure of Steven Gerrard. It’s never been about him and his position, it’s about how he can help the team. That’s why he plays, that’s what the captaincy means to him, even as players receive more accolades around him.
“It gives me great pleasure to see other players around us getting the rewards for our togetherness,” Henderson continues. “Mo’s awards mean a lot to me because it shows this group has helped him come here and settle into a great team. That shows how good this group of players is as well as what a great player he is.
“When I took the role on, I wanted to give everything to the team, like I always have, put them first and make sure we have a good dressing room of players who are prepared to work tirelessly for each other and have a good togetherness off the pitch and be a really close-knit group.
“I like that responsibility. That’s what I thrive off. I try to lead by example and I have done since I was a little boy. It’s in me as a person.”
Filling Steven Gerrard’s boots was always going to be a big task to whoever was chosen to do it. I’m clearly biased and have always thought Hendo would be the right person, but Oliver Hunt’s interview just affirms every belief. Jordan Henderson truly represents all the things that make Liverpool great, modestly and warmly as always. His heart makes us a better team and he’s quickly becoming the heart of the team itself.
God forbid any terrible news come out about him.