Jordan Henderson and the Liverpool fans’ mantra: ‘he’s not really all that good’

Jake: looking back

John McCormick writes: wasn’t it good to see Jordan Henderson picking up that trophy the other day? It wasn’t his first, either. Way back in 2011-12 he’d been on the winning side as Liverpool picked up the League cup. He’d also been a runner-up in a few competitions (FA Cup, Europa League,  Champions League, Premiership and so on) had captained his country in the World Cup, and, generally, proven to be a bit of a canny player. Yet, not long after he left Sunderland, I remember listening to Liverpool fans explaining why he just wasn’t good enough for Liverpool and how he’d never replace Steven Gerrard [the sniping from sections of the Liverpool and England support has continued – Ed].

There were similar criticisms about his selection as an England player after he made his senior debut in 2010 and, indeed, it was a while before he earned another cap. Yet we knew all long, didn’t we? At least Stephen Goldsmith did. Here’s what he wrote just 7 years ago, on June 5th 2012,  under his byline “Goldy’s Logic” and with the title:

Henderson, Liverpool and England: (2) lay off, he represents the future

Jordan Henderson

In the Daily Mail, it was a tale of two Matts, one (Lawton) starting his “story” about Jordan Henderson’s call-up with the insulting words “Liverpool flop” and the other (Barlow) praising his essential virtues – energy and quality delivery from wide areas – while, fairly, questioning whether these were suited to a deep-lying England role. Stephen Goldsmith – on Twitter @goldys_logic – admits to partisan pride but also sees Henderson’s involvement as a part of a commonsense blueprint for a brighter future …

Some radical changes have been introduced to junior football, changes that are intended to help develop the next generation of English players.

As I do a bit of coaching I watched with interest the reaction from the media and former players – and was pleasantly surprised.

Writers I quite respect got on board to notify their readers and Twitter followers that this put England in alignment with the rest of the footballing powerhouse nations, and that continuity was the key to make our side successful long term.

But I have been rather dismayed by some of the same writers when they heavily criticised the decision to include Jordan Henderson in the England squad. One change needed in kids’ football is to the notion that success must come immediately. It is a cause of real discontent that people want results too early, at any cost. Angry, demanding parents are a big factor in this and the changes are designed to combat that notion.

The changes will work if given time. But like typical angry parents demanding results instantly, these writers are throwing the continuity theory out of the window.

Talent needs to be nurtured at adult level as well as junior level, but narrowmindedness has crept back in. It is important that we make the most of an undesirable situation. Injuries to senior England players have left the squad significantly weakened, but is it really weakened further by freshening it up with players totally detached from a not-so-golden older generation?

And what part of players refusing to be on a standby list do people not understand? Why are they ready to forgive it? We need to evolve now.

Quickfire question: would Michael Carrick’s inclusion give us a chance of winning the tournament? Didn’t think so.

Stephen Goldsmith weighs up the Jordan Henderson debate

Henderson has captained the Under 21 side with outstanding success for over a year. I defy anybody who has watched him do so to say isn’t a good player. Guess what? Other big nations absorb their under 21 regulars into the national side to help entail continuity. They look forward rather than back. I fail to see the logic in failing to see that. I also fail to see the logic of respected hacks and ex-pros who throw any old name into the mix as an alternative to Henderson, one going as far as to suggest Leon Britton. Oh please! I would love to see Ian Darke keep a straight face on saying that again.

I have watched Jordan with interest over the season as I’m sure most of Sunderland fans have. I have even stated at Salut! Sunderland that it’s a bit surprising he’s near the squad on current form; it is clear he has had his struggles. What I find disgusting however, is this national attack on him, from all angles but based on ignorance.

While my remark was tongue in cheek and related to another topic, it has always been my desire to see young English players integrated into, interacting with the senior national team players is some way. I won’t get into all that here. Football will always be about opinion; it will also always be flooded with morons who understand little about the game they apparently love watching.

It saddens me to see the way a lot of Liverpool fans have spoken of Jordan this season and I have watched games on TV where the collective Anfield mass seems to be willing Jordan to make a mistake in possession. And this Anfield mass is built on a platform of 20 years of inability to cope with the reality of their new place in the hierarchy of English football.

But this isn’t an attack on Liverpool fans; I have spoken to many and came across many able to review the whole ”Jordan Henderson” debate objectively with a capacity to think rationally about the situation he has found himself thrust into. All clubs appear to have sensible majorities and vocal, foolish minorities. There are plenty of Sunderland fans who I wouldn’t want to be associated with when it comes to knowledge of football.

The Henderson price tag is the main factor, of course; money that is normally spent on world class individuals was spent on Jordan. A world class individual he is not. A very good player being unfairly judged on his price tag he is. Manchester United and Liverpool looked at Jones and Henderson last summer and thought of the future; these are two players who will represent England consistently for years. Unfortunately for them it was always going to take this kind of money for us and Blackburn Rovers to part with them. Why would either club sell a future England player for anything less than £15m? That will get you three average players these days; Sunderland paid £13m for Wickham and Gardner. I would have Jordan back in a heartbeat over those two at present. So it was always going to take that extra bit money for him to be prised away.

The unfortunate thing for Henderson is that Liverpool could ill afford to absorb him gradually into the side. Whereas Phil Jones was thrust straight into the Manchester United side following his expensive move but then used sparingly at times, Jordan was thrown straight into the Anfield pressure cooker and expected to perform like an £18m player despite, rightly or wrongly, being bought for his potential.

He had expectancy and autonomy placed on his shoulders due to the players he was to play alongside. Regardless of how confidently Jones started, he always had comfort of protection within a squad of top players who could carry him in moments of need. Liverpool don’t offer Jordan this as much.

Henderson was still rough around the edges when he attracted national interest in a Sunderland shirt. He was ridiculously unappreciated by a shocking percentage of our fans, too, those blind to quality that doesn’t come in the form of nutmegging three players before rifling the ball into the top corner.

When Capello first picked Henderson for England he emphasised the importance of taking a minimal amount of touches of the ball in its transition from defence to attack. Getting about the park with high intensity and moving it accurately but quickl, may seem a boring trait to possess to some fans. But not to others. Not to two England managers, two Sunderland managers, Kenny Dalglish and, I’m confident, Brendan Rodgers. In fact, Henderson has more to his game than that but this isn’t the place to get into to such detail. I am just content that my opinion seems to be shared by important football people rather than extremely non-important ones.

Perhaps these thoughts come across as based on misguided loyalty or unconditional support for Jordan; he is one of our own after all.

I won’t deny my defence of him is bound to be a little more partisan than it would be of others. It is human nature to be defensive of somebody who kicked a football about the streets and parks just a mile-and-a-half from the streets and parks where you kicked one around yourself, albeit a lot less successfully.

But the big test in my own mind rested on what my initial reaction would be to news of Martin Kelly being called up to replace Gary Cahill. I can honestly say, hand on heart, I am delighted.

I’m not going to be drawn into the Ferdinand debate, namely whether he should be making himself available to play alongside somebody accused of racially abusing his brother. It is very possible that Hodgson would rather bring in tomorrow’s generation than play a 33-year-old said by his own manager to be unable to play more than one game in a week. And just a thought: Lescott and Jagielka seem more than capable centre halves, at good ages in their careers, as does Ferdinand’s long term replacement at Manchester United, the aforementioned Phil Jones.

Another quickfire question: would Ferdinand’s inclusion give us a chance of winning the tournament? Didn’t think so.

Ultimate success isn’t possible in this tournament. It is time to evolve.

Now I realise that declaring that I would have had Micah Richards and Michael Carrick in from the start, but am now delighted they aren’t in at all, may leave me open to accusations of hypocrisy or suggest a somewhat questionable and staggered judgement. The fact is that it was the decision of these professionals to refuse to be on the standby list in the first place that made me change my thinking and reinforced my wish to see youth policy implemented now. These arrogant players made my mind up through their actions and I’m sure they helped make up Hodgson’s mind up too.

If it is a player’s right – indeed his duty – to be disappointed at being overlooked to represent their country in a major tournament, to refuse to be on a standby list is unacceptable and egotistical.

I felt the low expectancy coupled with the momentum a new manager invariably brings might have helped England. I would have gone initially for the out-and-out strongest squad, given these players one last shot at it.

However, the goalposts have been moved. Or rather they have been knocked over by petulant, ungrateful footballers whose actions reflect a generation of players that play football for extrinsic reward rather than an intrinsically motivated desire to be the best you can be, rewarded with the honour of representing your country at major tournaments, whether you were first choice or not.

Another Tony Roffe/Jake collaboration

Adrian Durham, presumably on some sort of mission to moan and patronise, even stated that Hodgson had categorically failed by refusing to pick up the phone and persuade Richards to play. After he refused to be second choice? Do me a favour. What ridiculous kind of message does that send out to the new crop of players breaking into his squads? How does that display Hodgson’s authority and autonomy as the boss? It is possible to be firm and in control as manager without resorting to being as regimental as the Fabio Capello regime and Hodgson is correct to refuse to go begging. If Carrick and Richards et al hadn’t gone big-time Charlie on us, then they’d be on the plane to Krakow. How do you say goodbye in Polish?

As for Jordan: a Farra lad playing in the Euros, gin an Jordan son!

* See also.

** The Jordan Henderson image is from the collection of our Charlton-supporting friend who rejoices at Flickr under the pseudonyn Addic-tedKevin. See his work here.


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