Captain of Liverpool on turning his career at Anfield, how he and his stint with the sports psychiatrist changed in 2020.
Jordan Henderson is in a mood to pause and reflect at the end of a dark year like no other and the start of a new one that will conclude a decade of his life in Liverpool. On the Covid 19 front, the Liverpool captain has relatives and friends working for the NHS.
Often, the only way for dying people to say farewell to their loved ones is to keep the phones and tablets.
His father, who helped save the NHS during a long cancer battle, is sheltered, and in the last year, Henderson hasn’t seen much of him. That helps understand why the crisis fund that raised millions of pounds from Premier League footballers for the NHS was founded and pushed by him.
Having just arrived home in the haze of end-of-year fixtures from a morning of preparation, Henderson is in a dedicated company even as he tackles the harsh effect of 2020. He says, “I think it has,” when asked if the year has changed him. “It puts things in perspective. Not that I take anything for granted at all, but it reaffirms what’s important – family and health. That’s all that matters. While you can, you have to enjoy life and try not to let it get you down too much.
But because of the epidemic, it’s been rough for everyone. We will hopefully see the other side soon, but a lot of people have been suffering, a lot of people have died, and all of us have been affected.
Any effort made by me and the other guys [his club colleagues who worked on the fund]was to help make a difference.
On the pitch, amid the absence of supporters, Henderson led Liverpool to its first league title in 30 years. He epitomized the irrepressible faith of the champion and unbridled passion. In the BBC Sports Personality of the Year poll, his Player of the Year award, voted for by the country’s soccer journalists, was followed by second place behind Lewis Hamilton.
The praise has replaced Henderson’s criticism and doubt that once dogged him. Yet, he maintains that his appetite is undiminished for change. He points out that the same game was a turning point in April 2019, when Liverpool played Southampton away on Monday night. As Liverpool recovered from conceding an early goal to win 3-1, Henderson came off the bench to put in a commanding display. In order to develop himself as a more offensive player, their captain proved that he can play the attacking midfield position he craves.
Of course, to those of us who have not experienced them, moments of personal crisis seem more fascinating.
But in a way that indicates his feelings are still intact, Henderson responds to questions about the adversity he has faced.
He was one of Fenway Group’s first major arrivals since its takeover when he joined Liverpool from Sunderland for £ 20 million in June 2011. Fourteen months later, as hard as it is to believe now, Liverpool decided to sell him to Fulham in a swap deal with Clint Dempsey, given how important Henderson is to the club.
Henderson says, “That was a difficult moment that I remember very clearly,” regarding a time that brought him to tears. “We were preparing for a [Europa League qualifier] against Hearts at Anfield. We met as usual at the [Hope Street] hotel and I got a knock on the door that the manager wanted to talk to us. It was just just a discussion to be fair to Brendan Rodgers.
It was [going to Fulham]an opportunity that I didn’t like, and I didn’t want.
I always felt like I had to offer a lot.
“But at the moment, I was in a really dark location.
Later on, it made us much stronger and wiser, and you never know what would have happened without the experience.
Which is why I love these times, because you need challenges, you need adversity. You get back up, and because you want to prove people wrong, it makes you stronger. I’ve had something inside of me since that day.
I had to prove to the boss that I was going to get onto his team eventually.
I’d do whatever it takes to be in his band, in this soccer club, and I’d prove them wrong.
I did that, in the end.’
Henderson states that during this turbulent period, he and his wife, Rebecca, were as close as ever, but that “it was hard because I could not let family and soccer go.”