Where are the haters now? Henderson on brink of glory

first_imgReal Madrid v Liverpool Jordan Henderson – the much-maligned Liverpool skipper who can write his name into Anfield history Neil Jones Click here to see more stories from this author Liverpool Correspondent Last updated 1 year ago 16:00 5/23/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) Jordan Henderson Liverpool Getty Images Real Madrid v Liverpool UEFA Champions League Real Madrid Liverpool Opinion The Reds’ captain has been criticised throughout his career but can lead Jurgen Klopp’s men to immortality in Kiev this weekend It promises to be a career-defining moment.When Jordan Henderson leads Liverpool out at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium on Saturday evening, he will be looking to join an elite club.Only four men have captained the Reds to European Cup glory. Emlyn Hughes did it twice, Phil Thompson, Graeme Souness and Steven Gerrard once each. Legends, one and all. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Goalkeeper crisis! Walker to the rescue but City sweating on Ederson injury ahead of Liverpool clash Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Sorry, Cristiano! Pjanic is Juventus’ most important player right now Were Henderson to add his name to that list, it would confirm his place in Anfield history. And as supporters prepare for long, tiring, expensive trips this week, it is worth reflecting on their captain’s own journey to Kiev.Surprising? Oh, aye. Thrilling? You bet. Arduous? Just a bit.In many ways, Henderson’s story mirrors Liverpool’s. It is one of courage and determination, belief and redemption. There has been the doubt, the despair and the disappointment; now there is the hope, the dream.It is approaching six years since he was called into a city-centre hotel room to be told by Brendan Rodgers that he could leave the club. Liverpool were keen to sign Clint Dempsey from Fulham, who in turn had made an offer for Henderson. It was one the Reds were happy to accept.Henderson cried that afternoon, played 90 minutes against Hearts in the Europa League that evening and, after speaking with his agent and his father, made a decision the next morning. He would stay and fight, prove Rodgers wrong, prove everyone wrong.That’s been his life at Liverpool, proving people wrong. He’s had seven years of it. Few players give more to the cause than he does, but few take more flak while doing so.But the best way to end an argument in football is with a trophy, and they don’t come bigger than the Champions League. Glory in Kiev would not just be the realisation of a lifelong dream for Henderson but the perfect response to his critics, too.Who could begrudge him it? Henderson has worked tirelessly to make himself a success at Anfield, his dedication, resilience and selflessness a lesson to any aspiring footballer. In an era of egos, he is the antidote; the humble leader of whom Liverpool can and should be proud.Jordan Henderson Liverpool PS“A team always needs someone like Jordan,” says Dejan Lovren. “He’s a workaholic on the pitch, and you need that. And off the pitch, he’s the same. He plays a really important role.”Speak to any Liverpool player and they’ll tell you the same. Henderson is not one for big, rousing speeches – though he will often say a few words before a match or at half-time – instead leading through example.His professionalism never wavers, whether on the training pitch, in the gym, in front of the media or in conversation with team-mates, management or supporters. He’s tee-total, controversy-free, utterly dedicated to his career.His colleagues appreciate it, even if some supporters don’t. When Mohamed Salah was awarded the PFA Player of the Year last month, he asked Henderson to accompany him to the ceremony. It was a show of respect to his captain; Salah, like many others, appreciates the role Henderson has played in helping him settle at the club.The man himself would blush at that suggestion. “I’m not particularly into people giving me credit,” he says. “I prefer talking about how well others are doing because that’s what I want. That’s what I try to do as a captain: give them a platform where they can go and perform as best they can.”On the pitch, Henderson is demanding, aggressive – “an angry man” according to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and one continually in the ear of referees and team-mates. He points and he screams and he talks and he encourages. And if you let your standards drop, he’s on you.An image from the Champions League semi-final second leg against Roma sticks in the mind; Liverpool were lost amid the celebrations at the final whistle, yet Henderson sought out Loris Karius, asking the goalkeeper why, a few minutes previously, he had chosen to head a ball clear from his penalty area instead of catching it.Standards, you see?Another, different kind of gesture stood out that night, Henderson ensuring that a flag bearing the name of Sean Cox, the Liverpool supporter left fighting for his life after being attacked by Roma fans outside Anfield, made its way onto the pitch. A touch of class, like the letter and the signed jersey sent by Henderson to Cox’s local GAA club in the Irish town of Dunboyne the previous week.Liverpool players hold a banner in tribute to injured fan Sean CoxThese things matter when you’re the captain of Liverpool. You’re representing a city, a community, a football institution. There’s a need to do things right, with decency and dignity. You must be grounded, humble, strong-minded, socially aware.Performances matter too, of course, and Henderson’s have, by and large, been good this season – better than his critics would suggest. Against Roma, he won more tackles over the two legs than any player, while against Manchester City in the quarter-final first leg, he was immense.  “He’s a better player than people think,” says Gary Lineker, who will host BT Sport’s coverage of the final this weekend. “I think he’s perhaps capable of hitting more forward passes than he does, but at the same time, he doesn’t give it away, he’s got great energy and he’s a natural leader.”He has had to modify his game at Liverpool; he joined as a free-running midfield player, tasked with breaking the lines and creating chances, but has been moved into a more fixed position as a No.6 under Klopp.Injuries may have played a part in that – in particular, a lengthy, painful battle against plantar fasciitis, a debilitating condition which affects the heel and foot – but Henderson’s passing range, ability to win the ball and communication skills are valued by the manager in a deeper, more tactically demanding role. There is, unquestionably, trust between the two, even if some supporters continue to question the 27-year-old.“If somebody doesn’t see his value, then what I can I do?” Klopp said back in January. “Please, write it: Jordan Henderson is a brilliant football player.”In March, he spoke of the “incredible job” his skipper has been doing. “You don’t get extra money for doing it,” he added. “There are a lot more duties and not a lot more rights, to be honest.”Jordan Henderson Klopp Liverpool PSMore scrutiny, too. More criticism and more unflattering comparisons with the greats that have gone before him. If you want to start an argument between Liverpool fans, Henderson is usually a good place to start.Thankfully, he has a thicker skin than most.From a personal perspective, I can recall a conversation with him about a year into his Liverpool career. I asked if it hurt when fans questioned him, when they said he wasn’t good enough or that he should have been sold. “Not at all,” he replied. “They are the ones who pay their money. It’s up to me to change their opinion, isn’t it?”It’s an admirable mindset, one which has not changed since. “I can accept criticism,” he said earlier this week. “Criticism is healthy. It gives you that extra little bit inside you to prove people wrong, to use it as energy, to use it as fuel.”That’s Henderson, built to last, selfless to the core and powered by doubters. For seven years, he’s given his all for the cause.Now, on Saturday, he gets the chance to complete his journey, to sit on top of the world.History beckons for Liverpool’s captain. Subscribe to Goal’s Liverpool Correspondent Neil Jones’ weekly email bringing you the best Liverpool FC writing from around the weblast_img read more

Milner: I’m tripping over Salah’s trophies!

first_imgLiverpool Milner: Salah is ridiculous, I’m tripping over his trophies! Chris Burton Last updated 1 year ago 07:30 5/26/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) James Milner Mohamed Salah Liverpool Getty Liverpool Mohamed Salah Real Madrid v Liverpool Real Madrid UEFA Champions League African All Stars The Liverpool midfielder is delighted to see an in-form team-mate earning recognition, but admits he is creating clutter in the dressing room James Milner says Mohamed Salah’s stunning efforts for Liverpool this season have left his team-mates tripping over awards in the dressing room.Few could have predicted that the Egyptian forward would make such an immediate impact upon returning to English football in the summer of 2017.Having previously flopped at Chelsea, the 25-year-old has been a revelation at Anfield to send records tumbling and complete a clean sweep of top awards. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Goalkeeper crisis! Walker to the rescue but City sweating on Ederson injury ahead of Liverpool clash Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Sorry, Cristiano! Pjanic is Juventus’ most important player right now A 44-goal star has landed the Premier League Golden Boot, PFA Player of the Year award, FWA Footballer of the Year prize, Liverpool’s Player of the Year gong, been named African Footballer of the Year, Premier League Player of the Month three times and the English top-flight Player of the Year.Milner is delighted to see praise raining down on a deserving colleague, but told The Times on Salah’s remarkable achievements: “Mo’s ridiculous.“In the dressing room the other day, by his spot there were seven trophies on the floor, all his player of the months from someone. “I’m stepping over them in my flip-flops. ‘Mo, will you move this! I can’t get to my spot. Do us a favour, will you!’”Salah has been the star of the show for Liverpool this season, but he has been ably assisted by fellow frontmen Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane – with that deadly trio now having the Champions League crown in their sights.Milner added ahead of a meeting with Real Madrid in Kiev: “There are times in a defensive situation when we’ve managed to nick it, play a pass into one of the three, then you’re just running up behind them, watching the three of them do, like, three one-twos and stick it in the top bin is amazing, and I think, ‘Nice!’”Liverpool will be hoping for more of the same against Madrid, with much being made of Salah’s impending battle with Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.He has already drawn comparisons to the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi.Milner can see why, with those claiming that Salah can be stopped by forcing him off a favoured left foot seemingly blind to the talent in front of them.He said: “It’s easy to say that, but actually stopping it… You can say that about Messi for 15 years that his right foot is not as great as his left.“There’s a great example of me when I went to press him [Messi at Camp Nou in 2015], got him by the touchline, he nicks it through my legs and he’s gone, incredible. The best players find a way.” Subscribe to Goal’s Liverpool Correspondent Neil Jones’ weekly email bringing you the best Liverpool FC writing from around the weblast_img read more