It would be understandable for Jordan Henderson of all people to have mixed feelings about Brendan Rodgers. Although Rodgers eventually gave Hendo the captain’s armband (and the unenviable task of following Steven Gerrand), he was also this close to being shipped out to Fulham in a swap deal for Clint Dempsey of all players.
While you or I would be quick to bring up that less-than-outstanding history, Henderson is better than you or I. I mean, obviously better at the footy, but also just a better all-around human being. If there is any remaining animosity from Henderson, he never once brought it up in his matchday program notes.
“There is little room for sentiment in football,” Hendo explained in the program, “and today I have no doubt at all that the manager in the away dugout will have as much desire to win here as we all have in looking to beat his side.
“That said, it’s impossible to ignore the person, along with key staff members, returning to Anfield this afternoon for first time since they left Liverpool. For 90-plus minutes we are opponents, but the only way to describe Brendan Rodgers, Kolo Toure, Chris Davies and Glen Driscoll is as returning friends – and as people who did a lot to help not just this club as a whole but a number of individual players within it, myself included. I know they’ll get a warm welcome before and after the game.
“I will always be grateful to Sir Kenny Dalglish for having enough belief in myself to bring me here in the first place. But as well as Sir Kenny, Brendan played a massive part in my Liverpool career and development as a player here.
“In the three years-plus I spent working for Brendan I learned so much from him. He was massively generous when it came to giving time to explain what he wanted from you, in terms of improvement and development.
“That he chose to hand me the armband sums up the impact Brendan had here: he made us all believe in ourselves and push ourselves to be better.”
Of course, Jordan Henderson is the only real hold over from the Rodgers era.
Vice Captain James Milner only had a handful of matches before Rodgers’ timely departure. Adam Lallana is, at best, a fringe member of the current squad. And Roberto Firmino was essentially forced on Rodgers by the “infamous” (in retrospect, “heroic”) transfer committee, and was played out of position—if at all—by the Northern Irish manager.
So, I’m not entirely sure the rest of the squad has such fond memories of Rodgers.
Henderson’s case, though, is a bit of a microcosm of Liverpool’s overall experience with Rodgers. It was a rough start under the largely untested, young manager. But when he found his feet, things really clicked into gear, playing a fantastic, irrepressible, and exciting brand of football. And then injuries—to Henderson and Sturridge, especially—paired with some poor choices and an inability to right the ship, led to his ultimate down fall.
Either way, things seem to be better for Henderson, Liverpool, and even Rodgers now. Let’s hope Henderson & Co. show Rodgers just how far they’ve come since his departure.