With the World Cup only two weeks away, it won't be long before the post-mortems kick off. For now, though, speculation is the name of the game, and wondering just how involved England's five Liverpool players will be come tournament time is one of the most speculated upon topics. Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge will start, but what of Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson?
"Every player who is here in the squad wants to be starting [and] that’s what I am trying to do," said Henderson when asked to rate his chances. "I feel as though I’m improving all the time. I’ve got to keep believing in myself and keep doing what I’ve been doing. I need to work hard in training and in the next three games before the World Cup show that I’m ready and raring to go.
"There are a lot of options in midfield but I’ll keep battling. Hopefully I can force my way into the starting eleven. Since I’ve been at Liverpool, Stevie has helped me—on the field you pick up little things, training with him every week has really been a help for me. We’ve got to keep that relationship going as long as possible for Liverpool and hopefully bring it to England."
Henderson's role in making Liverpool's system with Gerrard in the single-pivot work was made clear when he was suspended near the end of the season and the side clearly suffered for it. One might even make a strong case that it was Henderson's absence that was the difference between Liverpool finishing where they did in second and beating Manchester City in the final table.
For England, if Roy Hodgson plans on deploying Gerrard similarly, whether or not the manager choses to start Henderson could end up being the decision that makes or breaks England's chances. Given his importance to Liverpool's success it seems an obvious choice, but then, in the wider world of football, Henderson remains a criminally undervalued player still mocked for his £16M transfer fee.
"Obviously, me and Stevie have played together throughout the season and it’s worked really well at times," he said when asked if he thought that their partnership could be beneficial to England's chances. "But when we come with England it’s different—different tactics, different formations. It is up to the manager to decide whatever side he wants to put out and hopefully I will be part of it."
If he starts alongside Gerrard this Friday against Peru, it will be clear that Hodgson is at least leaning in that direction. If he doesn't, clued-in England fans should be a touch nervous. And either way, Liverpool fans will have at least half an eye on next season—as will Henderson, even if he's largely caught up in the excitement of heading to his first World Cup.
"Obviously after the last game of the season everybody would have been a little bit disappointed," he said. "That’s just natural, but at the same time we were very proud of what we achieved in the season and how far we’ve come on. Everybody was delighted with that, the bigger picture if you like. I think the lads at Liverpool are coming here full of confidence and raring to go for the World Cup."