When Jordan Henderson officially inherited the captain’s armband from Steven Gerrard, everyone knew he would have big shoes to fill. Gerrard was a Scouse-born Red with Liverpool FC in his DNA. He was a big game player who sparked the Miracle of Istanbul. He dragged Liverpool teams much further than they had any business going multiple times throughout his career, and he left behind a legacy of excellence that earned him the moniker “Captain Fantastic.”
That’s an incredibly tough act to follow, and nobody would have blamed Henderson if he failed to make even close to the same impact as his predecessor. Six years on from earning the armband full-time, one could reasonably argue that Henderson hasn’t just matched Gerrard’s impact as LFC captain, but possibly even topped it.
His impact on the pitch isn’t as noticeable as Gerrard’s was, but it becomes extremely clear any time he is forced to miss even a match or two. The team simply doesn’t perform as well without their on-field general barking orders from the center of the pitch. But, as important as he is on the pitch, the 30-year-old Englishman might have an even bigger impact off the pitch.
Henderson recently spoke at length with The New York Times’ Rory Smith about what it means to him to be the captain of Liverpool Football Club and the way he takes it upon himself to try and use his position to do good whenever he sees an opportunity. While I am only going to highlight a few key passages, I highly recommend reading the full article to really see just how lucky we all are to be able to call Jordan Henderson our captain.
“Unnacceptable. Teams not being relegated isn’t right. You have to earn your right to be in the Champion’s League,” - Henderson on his reaction to reading the proposals to for the European Super League
Recovering from a groin injury over the last few months has meant Henderson hasn’t been in the spotlight very much of late. But, he garnered a lot of attention when he kicked off a coordinated message of opposition to the European Super League by LFC players on social media.
He felt a responsibility to protect the players from a decision that they were not involved in and that they did not want to be a part of. He helped formulate a plan to address the Super League using James Milner’s quote: “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen.”
All of Liverpool’s players agreed to post the same message on social media so they would bear the weight of any backlash together, but it was the captain who kicked off the idea, and it was the captain who was first to post the message. It was a statement of direct opposition to the plans of the club owners. Such a statement can be risky, especially for the person who organizes it. But, it was the right thing to do, and that was a theme seen throughout this piece on Henderson.
Nedum Onuoha, a teammate of Henderson’s from their Sunderland days, gave several quotes to Smith about Henderson’s impact as a leader. Despite being said in jest, the most profound of Onuoha’s quotes was his calling Henderson “Captain of Captains.”
In reading the article, it’s not hard to see why Onuoha would say such a thing. Henderson has been the ramrod behind multiple important initiatives that were undertaken collectively by the Premier League captains.
When the Premier League players and their clubs organized an initiative to support NHS Charities Together during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, it all started with players instinctively looking to Henderson to find a way to pitch in and show their appreciation to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.
When the Black Lives Matter movement was taking center stage as the Premier League neared the beginning of Project Restart, it was Henderson who spoke to his black colleagues, the aforementioned Onuoha included, to figure out how the players could best show their support for racial justice and equality. It was Henderson who came up with the idea to put a Black Lives Matter badge on every player’s sleeve.
“He called me during the protests to talk,” said Onuoha. “He asked me to tell him about my experiences. I love him for that. He didn’t have to make that call, but he wanted to learn, and to understand.”
Most recently, when six PL clubs announced their plans to join the European Super League, it was Henderson who organized a Zoom call of all 20 PL club captains to discuss the need for a broad, unified statement. While the meeting was ultimately unnecessary as the ESL collapsed before it took place, it’s still another prime example of Henderson’s “Captain of Captains” credentials.
This only scratches the surface of a really brilliant profile of Liverpool’s captain, and I could easily write another 1,000 words of praise for him. Please do yourself a favor and read Rory Smith’s piece. No matter how much you already love Jordan Henderson, I promise you will come away loving him even more.