Hendo has started every Premier League game of the 2013/14 season so far and appeared in 37 of 38 in his debut season of 2011/12—more than Steven Gerrard, Pepe Reina et al.
Yet, the season between those two campaigns almost saw the former Sunderland midfielder leave the club. “When the manager told me I could go to Fulham it was a bit of a shock at first,” Henderson explained to The Telegraph.
Henderson's debut campaign, after his £16 million move from Wearside, saw manager Kenny Dalglish play the then-21-year-old as an orthodox right midfielder. It was a role that Henderson never looked comfortable in, and it also meant that the experienced duo of Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt, who had both finished the previous campaign in blistering form, found their involvement increasingly marginalised.
No wonder then that Henderson's debut campaign wasn't so memorable—a young player, with a huge price tag, being played out of position and overly relied upon, whose inclusion meant two cult heroes were left out. Talk about mitigating circumstances!
It was a surprise, when Brendan Rodgers arrived the following summer, that Henderson was almost allowed to leave for Fulham. Many presumed Henderson would be a player to profit from the new manager's appointment—something which has eventually happened after the player chose to stay and fight for his place.
Henderson explained to The Telegraph's Chris Bascombe in November 2012:
I just wanted to focus on playing for Liverpool, work hard and get myself into the team. Some people might have thought they’d rather go and play football but I said I will continue to work hard every day, keep fighting and I believe I have the ability to be in the team.
Centre midfield, right midfield, right-back, right wing-back, "false left wing"—positions that Henderson has played for Liverpool during his two-and-a-half seasons since arriving from Sunderland in June 2011.
It's fair to say that Henderson has been a victim of the attributes that make him so endearing to the manger and supporters; his work-rate and mentality mean he goes about the job admirably wherever he's asked—no fuss; he just gets on with the job. It's easy to see why he has eventually gone on to become a favourite with Rodgers. Somewhat, he embodies what Rodgers preaches.
Rodgers explained the player's versatility, as per the Metro:
At the end of last season, he played as a false winger from the left, coming inside and got goals. He played his first season here wide on the right. He’s played as a wing-back, wide in a midfield four.
In all the systems, what you get from him is a work-rate and a mentality and Jordan has got quality.
After gradually forcing his way back into the side during the latter stages of last season, Henderson has become a key component of Rodgers' rejuvenated Reds this season.
The autumn months saw Henderson deputised as a right wing-back as Rodgers switched to a 3-5-2 system, but since, pre-Christmas Henderson has moved into his favoured and more comfortable role in the centre of midfield. It's a role he's grown into, and he looks more and more impressive with each game.
His first opportunity in the centre was in the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace in October. He impressed and has never looked back.
Arguably, Henderson's best game arrived in the 5-0 thrashing of Tottenham at White Hart Lane in December. He was used as Liverpool's most attacking midfielder in the trio alongside Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen that day, his impressive energy levels allowing him to press and forge opportunities for Luis Suarez.
Since then, and despite picking up some small knocks, Henderson has maintained his place in the midfield trio where others have found their places rotated. He and captain Steven Gerrard are the two whose places have been guaranteed, starting the last 12 Premier League games alongside each other since Gerrard's return from injury in January.
Indeed, Henderson's role has been key to allowing Gerrard to excel in his new role as the deep-lying playmaker; Henderson's pressing and energy gives Gerrard the room in which he benefits from and requires.
“The difference now is that rather than playing with two defensive midfield players we are playing with one," explained Rodgers to The Liverpool Echo this week.
Gerrard is that one, with Henderson plus one other completing the midfield triangle or, on occasion, Henderson being one of the two shuttling midfielders on either side of the diamond shape, as used for the away games at Southampton and Old Trafford lately.
In the past, it has been critiqued that players such as Henderson were intimidated by Gerrard's presence in midfield, preferring to play to the influential captain rather than playing their own game. Now, with Gerrard in a deeper role, Henderson and others appear to be more comfortable to express themselves going forward.
Henderson certainly has grown as a player in recent months and become far more influential. He's another player who has profited, seemingly, from working with sports psychiatrist Dr. Steve Peters, as he explained earlier this year.
Of course, it is easy to forget that Hendo is still only 23 and has plenty of improvements in his game to follow. The primary improvement required is that of goals.
He needs one more to equal his tally of five league goals last season, but ideally he needs to be looking to double that next season. Once more goals arrive, it will bring with it greater confidence—not only in himself but also from the supporters.
You saw how disappointed Henderson looked after he missed the chance when Raheem Sterling played him in the match against Tottenham on Sunday—and equally how happy he was when Luis Suarez pointed to him after his free-kick made it 4-0, with Suarez indicating that he hadn't got a touch—"your goal, mate."
Quite clearly, Rodgers is now a big fan of Henderson's, and the 23-year-old is growing in stature. If he continues to make the improvements he has shown over the past 12 months, he will continue to cement his place in the Liverpool midfield.
Henderson is a player who is likeable, a player you can relate to—proving that hard work does pay off. He's now looking like a good option for England at the World Cup and should be lining up for Liverpool in Champions League fixtures next season. He's earned it, and he sets an example for other youngsters at the club.
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