Friday, 11 April 2014

Not Another Jordan Henderson Article

We told you so.

One of the many pleasures of being a Liverpool fan through this exceptional season has been the amount we've been able to slam back down the throats of others. We told you Daniel Sturridge wasn't arrogant, merely better at football than almost everyone else. We told you that Steven Gerrard wasn't finished. And we told you that Jordan Henderson, gait and all, could be an excellent midfield player in his own right.

That last one has even started to wear a bit thin. I can't tire of seeing Sturridge skin an opponent and plonk a Fowleresque finish, or Gerrard wheel away after another colossal display of nerve - but one more minute of Jamie Redknapp 'analysis' of how Jordan Henderson isn't actually shite, and the pressure of this title race might finally finish me off.

My feelings over this Hendo-fest are much like my feelings over the general warmth of the public towards our unexpected title charge and how we've become the people's pick for the title - kindly get to fuck. This is our party, and we didn't invite you. We've been the laughing stock of English football for a number of years, and much of it was even justified - but now its our time, and you don't get to switch your allegiance.

In any case, this Henderson palaver was all quite foreseeable. Gifted, but grossly overhyped when he broke through at Sunderland, particularly when managing a whopping 3 goals in a breakthrough season, Henderson was unreasonably thrust into the spotlight as the press clamoured for England's next midfield after the shambles of South Africa. The comparisons to the incomparable Lampard and Gerrard were inevitably laid on with a trowel, and just as quickly vanished once he'd earned his first hastily-awarded cap alongside Jay Bothroyd in front of a bored, baying Wembley crowd against France.

All he needed to secure his unwarranted downfall was to join Liverpool for an undisclosed (varying between £14m and £20m depending on who wrote the article) fee that summer. Merely holding up a scarf at Melwood was enough to make you a write-off at that time.

Three years on, and there has been a satisfyingly gradual development about Henderson, from the raw, energetic, yet intriguingly tidy promise at Sunderland, through encouraging yet erratic progression under Dalglish, to the more polished, aware and astute operator he is under Rodgers. Lo and behold, he was never the next Patrick Vieria nor the new Salif Diao. Though this is Premier League football in the 21st century; Hyperbole HD 24/7.

By the way, its not just Henderson's detractors that got it all wrong. Since he swerved Rodgers' fire-sale on arrival, plenty of his biggest fans drew on a particularly peculiar theme that rears its head every so often amongst Liverpool's fan base; Its all the fault of our one of our greatest ever players.

You see, Steven Gerrard is the problem. When he's not there, Henderson has the freedom to express himself, without the intense stare of the captain burning a hole in his jersey. Gerrard is tactically sporadic, too forceful, too fired-up, too passionate and...well...too good. The same excuse was rolled out for Xabi Alonso during the mediocre middle-three of his five year spell at Anfield, and for Lucas Leiva too when the apparently free-scoring box-to-box Brazilian suffered in his first two years at the club. Joe Allen is the latest victim.

Thankfully, Brendan Rodgers has coaxed this nasty habit out of his number 14, busting this absurd myth that has thwarted other talented players at Liverpool and elsewhere. If a player is suffering in the shadow of another, its simply the former's flaw to overcome. They used to say the same about Wayne Rooney when Cristiano Ronaldo was hogging the limelight at Old Trafford. Ronaldo is certainly a better footballer, but the wider gulf is in their respective mentalities, and Ronaldo's departure from United and subsequent year-on-year improvement has only further emphasised it.

The inferiority complex that reduced Henderson to a rabbit in the headlights when the stage was set for him against Cardiff at Wembley in 2011, has been consigned to the history books of a largely forgettable period of LFC history. This season, he reduced Ozil to ashes in the massacre of Arsenal, twice towered above the Tottenham side that was supposed to keep us out of the top four, let alone top the pile, and in the most horrendously ill-anticipated match I've ever experienced, he was monstrous in Manchester. The perfect foil for his skipper.

Such was the level of his display at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson should be forced to enter the prawn sandwich seats of his former stomping ground through the Jordan Henderson Gaits for all eternity.

Liverpool are poetry in motion, and Jordan Henderson fills every unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' distance run. And what is more - we bloody well told you so, lads.

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