After 30 years of waiting, Liverpool fans were finally rewarded for their patience as their team were officially announced as Premier League champions on Thursday night. This will make Jordan Henderson the first Liverpool captain to lift a league trophy since Alan Hanson in 1990; but crucially the first to lift a Premier League title for the Reds.
Since Liverpool’s title was secured, social media has been littered with images of Henderson stood amongst other Liverpool captains, the most recent in a succession of great leaders. Despite the clear dominance, and success of this Liverpool team Henderson still doesn’t seem to be receiving the credit that he deserves.
If we were to measure captains purely on the amount of silverware that they bring to a side, then Henderson does have some ground to make up.
Emlyn Hughes sits high above all other Liverpool leaders, having lifted 11 trophies as captain. This included two European Cups, and three league titles. Running down the list has Alan Hansen with eight, Ron Yeats with six, and then Steven Gerrard, and Graeme Souness, each with five.
Having now lifted the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup, and with a Premier League to come, Henderson sits just one behind Gerrard, and Souness.
With the European Cup in Madrid, Henderson is certainly in elite company in Liverpool terms. To lift the trophy which Liverpool have so much history with, is on its own worthy of bolstering Henderson’s pedigree.
Further, he has now gone one better than any Liverpool captain before, as in 2019 he led his team to victory in the FIFA Club World Cup, a competition that the Merseysiders had never clinched before.
And now with a Premier League to add, it is clear that Henderson, with such a special team and manager alongside him, is beginning to make history for the Reds.
Big Shoes to Fill
Clearly, Henderson was in an unenviable position having to follow in the boots of Steven Gerrard. Arguably Liverpool’s greatest ever player, Gerrard’s legacy at Anfield was one that whomever was to replace him would have to contend with. It seems fair to say that Henderson has done this with good grace.
Having made 710 appearances for the Reds, scoring 186 goals in the process, Gerrard is quite simply a great of the club. Gerrard’s impact on a succession of average Liverpool squads during his 12 years as captain is undeniable. His performances throughout the 2004-05 Champions League campaign are worthy of cult status alone.
It is hardly unsurprising looking back at the criticism that Jordan had to put up with at the beginning of his career at Anfield, that he was already being compared to Gerrard. Comments were consistently made in the media that he was a cautious midfielder, who lacked creativity, and backed out of challenges. Anybody who knows anything about Gerrard would know that he was the complete antithesis of this.
But when we look at Henderson’s impact on the current Liverpool side, his importance to it is unquestionable, and goes to show how wrong all of the criticism of him as a player was. Of the 37 matches in which he has featured in this season, Liverpool have lost just three. Their other three defeats of the season came in the 13 matches in which he did not feature. They have a win percentage nearly 20% greater when he is in the side.
Certainly it is hard to be as clear cut about such statistics to say that he is the deciding factor, yet for there to be such a difference over an entire season does appear to be telling. Moreover, this current Liverpool squad is clearly the best it has been for a very long side, so for one player to have quite such an impact is testimony to his class, and influence on the pitch. Trophies aside, his impact on this team is one which Gerrard certainly would have been proud of.
What has Henderson got left to do?
Needless to say, he is already on his way to becoming a great, and the moment that Jordan lifts the Premier League trophy will be one that Liverpool fans never forget. As special as Emlyn Hughes lifting the European Cup in 1977, and Steven Gerrard doing the same in 2005.
The only way that Henderson will truly cement his place in Liverpool folklore is by just doing what he has been. He has now won 361 appearances for the Reds, overtaking Graeme Souness on 359, with the games since lock-down. He does have some way to catch Yeats on 454, Thompson on 477, Alan Hansen on 620, Emlyn Hughes on 665, and Gerrard on 710.
Certainly it is unfair that he must continually be compared to those that have come before him, but to play for a club with such an illustrious past there is no getting away from that. So for Henderson to truly be regarded a great of the club he will perhaps need to see out his career on Merseyside, or remain for the next few seasons at least.
Then, when we look back on the teams of the 1970’s and 1980’s the one thing that stands out is their relentlessness. Liverpool won eleven league titles in those two decades, a testament to the players, and the leaders that they had. So if Henderson can repeat even a small part of history in the seasons to come, and bring more silverware to Anfield, then his name will surely forever be mentioned in a long list of truly great Liverpool captains.
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