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.



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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. https://safc.blog/2012/05/henderson-liverpool-and-england-is-it-just-possible-that-roy-hodgson-knows-best/

** 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. http://www.flickr.com/photos/addick-tedkevin/

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15 thoughts on “Henderson, Liverpool and England: (2) lay off, he represents the future”

  1. I agree about Britton Goldy. Earlier in the season I was starting to think that he looked a canny player. His stats are probably comparable to Iniesta when it comes to passing, but there’s a huge difference between doing the business in the last third of the field and on the edge of your own penalty area with no opponent even trying to take the ball off you.

    It is going to be very interesting to see how Rodgers does in the heat of Anfield. Rather like Britton, he appears to have exceeded expectations where it doesn’t really matter. An interesting appointment for Liverpool. A manager that hasn’t won anything other than a promotion on the back of a train that was already at full steam due to Roberto Martinez to a greater or lesser extent. I don’t expect Rodgers to get much time or achieve anything at Anfield but would expect him to play Henderson in his most natural position. We’ll see.

  2. Would agree on the last sentence to an extent. I’m looking forward to watching Jordan play for Rodgers and hopefully dispel any last opinion that he isn’t a good player. His short, precise one and two touch passing should see him flourish a little more. Basing my thinking on the apparent national interest in Leon Britton and his 5 yard passes, Henderson’s superior vision may be about to be reflected and imposed on those who’s footballing insight is a little one dimensional. A bit like Roy Hodgson.

  3. It seems to me that Jordan Henderson’s career has been more or less built around being played out of position.

    In his last season at Sunderland there was a long period when he was performing very poorly. To sell him for 20M was the best bit of selling that any club has done for years. He is a very average player in my opinion, and this is being proven time after time every game he plays. Having said all that, I am relieved to see some other faces in the England squad. It is of course the weakest England squad in living memory and unfortunately there really isn’t a lot of English talent which is seriously ahead of Henderson limited though he is. Hodgson, Henderson and England. The embodiment of average.

  4. I think the way the media treats Jordan and Jones is interesting. Both have played out of position for most of last season , to the extent that it’s not clear which is each’s best . But Jones seems to be hailed as a huge talent wherever he plays , and clearly he isn’t a full back. He makes a lot of mistakes , as does Jordan, and is to be expected of young players. We should give them both encouragement , as they are the future , and especially in midfield , apart from Wiltshire, there aren’t many ahead of Henderson.

  5. All the people on agency and job waiting lists up and down the country should just refuse and give up.

  6. Agree with almost all the article but would like to make a comment about the stand-by list. Being on that list effectively strait-jackets you for the summer. There’s more to life than football and players need some certainty to allow them to plan for their summer. It could be the difference between having a good or a bad season next time around.

    • I’m afraid I will have to disagree with that wholeheartedly. There is more to than football when it is you committing your life to it emotionally, and more importantly, financially. To suggest that somebody privileged enough to play football for a profession is within his right to put his life on hold temporarily on the off chance he can represent his country in a prestigious tournament, to live the dream of millions of fans and have the chance to use your talent to make them proud, is utter garbage and reflective of only the ungrateful,over privileged and self centred of society.

  7. I think Liverpool highlight the need to have a structured development policy where English talent can be nutured outside the club. Kenny Dalglish was given the Liverpool job with much fanfare based mainly on historical achievements as a player and a manager. I have not witnessed Liverpool’s coaching regieme first hand but what I can say without fear of contradiction that under Dalgliesh, Henderson, Carrol and Downing have all deterioated under Kenny and his old fashioned technique. He wasn’t sacked for failing to make the Champions League he was sacked for not adding to the value of his purchases. Rodgers is a very good coach but is he what Liverpool need? I don’t think so will he be tactically astute against better more capable teams we shall see but I don’t think so. Pretty football isn’t always winning football.

  8. Thanks Goldy.
    Really good read and I agree with you 100% on all the issues you’ve raised.
    I do however worry that should Hendo or Kelly be used in a big game and they play well, Hodgson will take the credit. If they play poorly or are even average, Hodgson will let the media crucify them. As a Liverpool supporter I know all too well how scared Roy is of standing up to the media on his players’ behalf.

    • Thanks very much, means a lot..

      Don’t be shy to check out other articles, they aren’t always just pure Sunderland.

  9. very good article, but you stopped short of telling the truth about how we at Liverpool mismanaged Jordan. As you said he was played too much and too often out of position. Sometimes he looked like a little scared boy afraid to do the things that persuade Liverpool buy him. As for Liverpool fans; we have a reputation for being some of the most knowledgeable around, but unfortunately like other clubs we have a ‘Sky Generation’ of fans who now have a chance to voice its ill informed opinions via social network sites.

  10. As a Liverpool supporter, it really hacks me off when people have a go at this lad and I’ve been arguing my corner all season. The lad is young, you can see he has it and I bet all I have that he will be in the Liverpool midfield for years to come. It’s hard to make your mark in a midfield that is dominated not only by the physical, but the mental presence of Gerrard, and playing in the right position might help too.

    At the end of the day, he is still relatively inexperienced in terms of prem seasons under his belt, yet he has represented England at junior and senior level and is off to the Euros. What’s Downing’s excuse? Older, more experienced and half the time loooks like he’s hiding, at least Hendo gets stuck in. It will come right, so to those reds who don’t have the patience that we had as fans, shut it and prepare to feel ashamed as you realise that you got it wrong just like you did over Lucas.

    • @Michael Evans – I totally agree with your defence of Henderson and criticism of Downing. I don’t understand why everybody has been jumping all over Gerrard’s back though, as if it is his fault that his team-mates refuse to assert themselves on games, especially while playing for a club like LFC. Gerrard has been played out of position (in the deep lying role), just as much as Henderson has (playing in the free attacking, or wide right roles).

      Back to the topic though, Henderson moves the ball quickly and looks for passing triangles, which is what a central midfielder is supposed to do. The confidence will surely come with time to see him look for the more incisive movements on and off the ball. And although he isn’t a better player than Carrick or Lampard right now, and maybe not even Barry either, the latter players are on the way out and were supposed to be discarded after the World Cup anyway weren’t they?

      I thought that there was a clamour to follow the route of Germany in bringing through a more youthful, energetic team, but now that it is belatedly happening due to injuries, everybody is up in uproar?? I understand the incredulity over the number of Liverpool players called up, but aside from Downing, it’s not like it’s a bunch of scrubs inexplicably being brought in…

      • Here here. While Joe Cole would take a man on and carry it for 30 seconds, Jordan has it moved on, accurately. People scream out we should be forward thinking on one hand and on another moan that we aren’t throwing in tried and tested players who will inevitably fail anyway.

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