Jordan Brian Henderson, Liverpool’s skipper, will go down as an Anfield legend. That is no longer a question worth giving any additional air or ink to. He just is. The only questions worth our time these days are “How many trophies will Hendo lift?” and “Where does Hendo stand amongst all-time Liverpool captains?”
Today, Henderson can add the last missing piece to his impressive collection of winner’s medals: the FA Cup.
To do so, Hendo will have to overcome the team that prevented him from lifting the cup (albeit in a non-captain capacity) in his only other FA Cup final in 2012. That day, Chelsea trotted off 2-1 winners, denying Liverpool a domestic cup double, and effectively ending the brief Kenny Dalglish revival.
As we know from his personal history, Henderson has a long memory, and will be keen to create a redemption story from that day, 10 years ago.
Henderson, and this Liverpool squad, have developed in leaps and bounds since that fateful day.
That cup final represented the first in a long-string of near misses for a club that is famously more used to winning trophies than coming up just short. In 2014, Liverpool finished second best to Manchester city in the league. Once again, Chelsea were there to deal the fatal blow in the run in. In 2016, the Reds fell short again at the final hurdle—twice!—once to Man City in the League Cup, on penalties, and in the Europa League final after a second half collapse to Sevilla. And then Kiev happened in 2018, against our once and future enemy Real Madrid.
When Barcelona beat the Reds 3-0 in their home leg of the Champions League semifinal, and Vincent Kompany blasted a once-in-a-career goal in for City in the league 2019, it seemed as if this run of near-misses would never end.
Jordan Henderson, since earning the armband in 2015, oversaw most of these heartbreaking defeats. There was talk at the time that if Liverpool didn’t get one of these trophies over the line, maybe a change in leadership was in order.
Henderson responded by putting on one of the all-time great performances in our history. The Liverpool captain was simply everywhere he needed to be at Anfield against Barcelona. The rebound from his early shot opened the scoring for the Reds, and he was instrumental in keeping the intensity just where it needed to be. Four goals and 90 breathtaking minutes later, the Reds had done the impossible. He collapsed onto the Anfield turf at the final whistle, physically and mentally exhausted, having given everything for the Reds that night. And a few weeks later, Henderson would end his trophy-less drought as Liverpool captain by lifting the biggest prize of all, the European Cup.
Soon, the drought became a flood. Over the next calendar year, we got to see Henderson tippy-tap his way to lifting the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, and the long-awaited Premier League. And earlier this season, the Reds defeated Chelsea on penalties—just as they did in the UEFA Super Cup—to lift the League Cup.
We, as a fanbase, have been insanely lucky to watch Jordan Henderson develop as a footballer and to have him captain our side. We saw him come in as an exciting young midfield prospect. We saw him become an early Brendan Rodgers scapegoat (if there is a more damning indictment of Rodgers’ management or judgement, I’d like to hear about it). We saw him become an indispensable part of our midfield, and the heir-apparent to Steven Gerrard’s captaincy.
Then we saw him do the near impossible: exceed all expectations as Liverpool captain. To say that Gerrard left some big shoes to fill is an understatement. Stevie is arguably the greatest ever Liverpool ever. Henderson, although an excellent footballer, probably isn’t making anyone’s all-time Liverpool XI’s. But Hendo might just be a better captain than Gerrard, and is already more decorated (Gerrard only won 3 major honors as club captain).
In many ways, Henderson’s story is our story as a club. His ups and downs became our ups and downs. We lived our highest of highs and lowest of lows through Henderson. We watched him give his all for the badge, and wept along side him out of joy when all the trials, tribulations, and near-misses finally came to an end three years ago in Madrid.
Henderson became the first Liverpool captain to lift the Club World Cup. And today he can become the first Liverpool captain to lift every trophy he can win.
The FA Cup is the missing piece. It’s been a 10-year wait since our last chance to lift it, and a 16-year wait since we last succeeded at Wembley. Moreover, it’s a chance to see off our old foes. That year, Chelsea defeated the Reds 2-1, and then went on to lift the European Cup. This year, Liverpool can do the same.
If Liverpool win both, Henderson will be in rarified air among successful Liverpool captains. He’ll join Emlyn Hughes as the only other club captain to lift the European Cup multiple times.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there’s a cup to win today. The oldest club cup in all of football, and one that has eluded us for too long. Let’s give the Blues hell, and see Hendo tippy-tapping his way to another trophy lift.