Jordan Henderson is a player who didn’t make much of a splash when he arrived at Liverpool in 2011. One of the infamous members of CHAD (Andy Carroll, Henderson, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing) that arrived in Liverpool during Kenny Dalglish’s second reign at the club, the young Henderson blended into the background for years.
Henderson spent that time either playing out of position to suit the manager’s needs or working as an aging Steven Gerrard’s understudy in his preferred spot in central midfield.
Though many doubted him — and through sheer stubborn determination, some still do — Henderson persevered and forced himself into the team. In what was not our transfer committee’s finest hour, he nearly went to Fulham, along with additional cash, in order for the Reds to secure Clint Dempsey. It’s a Sliding Doors moment in modern Liverpool FC history for sure, but Henderson refused the switch and eventually became vice captain and finally Liverpool captain.
In a recent episode of Rio Ferdinand’s podcast The Locker Room, Hendo talked about his early struggles in the team.
“Going to such a big club, with the price tag that people would talk about,” he explained.
“It was more that I found myself trying too hard to impress and show people that I was worthy of being there, that I should be playing and I am worthy of being at Liverpool.
“I was trying too hard at times, I had a few conversations with Kenny Dalglish once I was there and he’d tell me to calm down, relax and I was there for a reason. It was all well and good having that conversation but I found it difficult to know how to do that - I was still running round in training like a mad man trying to prove that I should be there.
“I suppose that’s a lack of confidence on my part looking back but going through that experience definitely made me stronger.”
He credits his teammates for helping him learn and grow as a player through that period. He made particular note of Luis Suarez, who he describes in awestruck terms.
“He was never in the treatment room, he had that mentality that he loved playing football and always wanted to play no matter whether he was injured or had a niggle or a knock,” Hendo said.
“His mentality was so good. He had to change his boots once because his foot was so swollen he couldn’t get his on. He wore Stevie’s boots for one game and scored a worldy of a free-kick - I just thought ‘wow, this guy is something else’. It was frightening.”
All of Henderson’s hard work paid off in the end, He proved his detractors wrong and got to lift a Champions League trophy for his troubles. Hopefully in a few weeks, we’ll see him hoist the Premier League cup as well.