After being one of Liverpool’s sturdiest players, making 186 appearances in his first four seasons at the club, Jordan Henderson suffered the first serious injury of his career in the autumn. All told, he missed 22 games following his heel injury, something he’s still feeling the effects of.
"He’s not at 100% but his mentality helps him," reflected Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp when asked about the club’s captain. "I think a lot of players in football would have struggled with the problems he’s had, but he’s a fighter and it’s very important for us and for the team that he wants to be available for us.
"Always, with everything he can do, he’s available. For him it’s the early part of the season because he had a long break with his heel injury. He’s a perfect professional football player and I love his attitude, that’s really great for us."
It can be easy to overlook the difficulty of returning to action mid-season after a long injury layoff. The speed of the game, and facing players who are fully match fit, can lead to a lengthy adjustment period. One only has to look at the start-stop nature of Daniel Sturridge’s repeated attempted returns to see just how difficult it is.
Henderson, though, has quietly gone about the business of putting in solid midfield performances. He may not be back to his best just yet, but he’s been a steady, reliable presence in midfield for Liverpool since his return. And if his goal against Norwich over the weekend is anything to go by, he’s getting close.
"The goal was in a moment when I think Norwich were celebrating," said Klopp of Henderson’s goal and its importance. "We didn’t play too well in the moment and it seemed very easy to beat us, but then he woke up everybody with his goal. The cross from Clyney, the pass from Roberto, and it was a really brilliant finish."
Liverpool will be counting on Henderson to make another important contribution against Stoke City in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final today. If the Reds can successfully advance, Henderson and other key starters could be in line for a rest on the weekend when Liverpool face West Ham in the FA Cup.