Shortly before Liverpool returned to the Champions League, Jordan Henderson was named the club's vice-captain for the coming season. From the outside, it didn't seem much of a surprise. In fact, next to Henderson there didn't seem another candidate anywhere near as likely to be picked for the role. That didn't dampen Henderson's reaction to his selection.
"It means everything really," said the 24-year-old midfielder. "It's a great honour to be given the extra responsibility by the gaffer. He said not to change anything, to keep doing what I've been doing. He feels that I've been doing well and leading the group well at times, and hopefully I can continue to do that and it will not change me in any way."
From a potential outcast early in his time at the club under Brendan Rodgers, Henderson has become indispensable. The likes of Luis Suarez may have delivered the flash in front of goal last season, but it's Henderson as much as anyone who deserves credit for making Liverpool's midfield work as the club exceeded all expectation and came up just short of winning their first title of the Premier League era.
Throughout, Henderson took on a growing role not just with his play, but also by taking on an increasingly vocal leadership role. When a teammate was fouled, it was Henderson who was most often first on the scene. He says he learned that side of the game from, and patterned his approach to it after, Steven Gerrard, and that he continues to do so as Liverpool embark on their European return.
"All I can do is look to support Stevie whenever I can," added Henderson. "He has not only been one of the best leaders for Liverpool and England, but in the game itself. Like I always have, I'll look to learn from him as best I can. There's no better man than him to do that."
As for that return to Europe, Henderson admits it wasn't perfect. In the end, though, he was pleased with the way Liverpool controlled the game for much of the match. And in the end, as it always is, he believes that the most important takeaway is that Liverpool managed to take away all three points on an at times nervy, difficult evening.
"We knew it would be difficult and they would be a decent team," he said. "At 1-0, we needed to see the game out. Unfortunately we didn't do that, which we're really disappointed with. But we kept going and Javier did brilliantly for the goal to get in there in front of the 'keeper and get the penalty. And it was a great penalty by Stevie. So the most important thing was the three points.
"Three points are always vital in the Champions League and I'm sure they will prove to be three big points. Everybody is looking forward to the next game now and we've got to keep improving."