Will Jordan Henderson become a Liverpool FC great in Kiev?
By Lee O’Connor
Amidst all the build-up to the Champions League Final versus Real Madrid on Saturday Night, Jordan Henderson must surely take a moment to pinch himself.
After almost being let go from Liverpool by Brendan Rodgers in 2012, in a proposed swap-deal with Fulham’s Clint Dempsey – which now seems bizarre – to being one game away from lifting the European Cup as club captain. It’s the stuff of pure fantasy.
But it’s real enough, alright. And, should Henderson lead The Reds to victory in Ukraine, he’ll join a very select, highly illustrious list of legends to have hoisted Ol’ Big Ears aloft as skipper. For a player who hasn’t always convinced the Anfield faithful that he’s of the quality required to play for Liverpool, let alone wear the armband, it would be quite the achievement. An achievement which would undoubtedly see him elevated to the status of a Liverpool great.
Liverpool’s European Cup Winning Captains
Let’s take a look, now, at the men who’ve gone before Henderson. Men whose names will echo in eternity ’round the Fields of Anfield Road and beyond. Men who between them led out the Mighty Reds not only to the Four European Cup victories detailed below but to countless other trophies, trinkets and cups.
Emlyn Hughes (European Cup winning captain in 1977 (v Gladbach) & 1978 (v Brugge)
Intergral to the all-conquering Liverpool teams of the 70’s – during which time he won no less than fourteen trophies – Emlyn Hughes was brought to the club by the legendary Bill Shankly. Equally comfortable in both defence and midfield, ‘Crazy Horse’ was Football Writer’s Player of the Year in 1977, when he skippered Liverpool to the League Title and their maiden victory in the European Cup v Borussia Monchengladbach. Hughes went on to captain Liverpool to victory again the following year, as the Reds beat Brugge through a Kenny Dalglish goal at Wembley – becoming the first English team to retain the trophy in the process. Emlyn and his infectious smile sadly left us too soon in 2004 when he died, aged just 57.
Phil Thompson (European Cup winning captain in 1981 v Real Madrid)
Younger readers will now be more familiar with Phil Thompson through his appearances on Soccer Saturday but, in his day, ‘Thommo’ was better know for his rock-solid displays in Liverpool’s back line. A strong and steady centre half, the once skinny kid from Kirkby would claim glory in much the way Jordan Henderson would like to this weekend, securing victory over Real Madrid in the final. Still a passionate Red to this day, Thompson served the club with distinction over 13 trophy-laden years as a player, before returning to the club as reserve coach under both Kenny Dalglish and later as assistant manger to Gerard Houllier.
Graeme Souness (European Cup winning captain in 1984 v Roma)
Synonymous with tough, aggressive play, you could be forgiven for forgetting that Souey was the complete midfielder. With exemplary short and long range passing ability and a penchant for scoring sublime goals, Souness set the tempo for the Reds and was there to back up his team-mates if things got ugly. He led The Reds to European Cup Number 4, dispatching his penalty in the shoot-out v Roma in a game perhaps most famous for Bruce Grobbelaar’s ‘spaghetti legs’ routine. His reputation was somewhat tainted during his tenure as manager but, as a player, Souness was a force of nature.
Steven Gerrard (Champions League winning captain in 2005 v AC Milan)
Tenacious, talented and incredibly influential when it mattered, Steven Gerrard is one the best players to ever pull on the Red shirt. And that’s saying something. Made captain under Gerard Houllier at only 23 years of age, Gerrard led his teams not only by example and with an unwavering desire to win, but by the sheer force of his ability to conjure magical moments from nothing. His heroics against Olympiakos in the Champions League Group Stage were immortalised by Andy Gray, before he went on to kick-start one of the greatest comebacks in football history against Milan in Istanbul. A club icon and legend of the modern game.
So, here’s to you Jordan Henderson…
It wouldn’t be fair to Jordan Henderson to compare him directly with these great captains. To measure him up in midfield against Souness and Gerrard would be harsh, given that they’re arguably the two best central midfielders in the club’s history. To tally his trophy-haul next to Hughes and Thompson would be to use the wrong rule of thumb, given that their successes came during a much different time for Liverpool.
Instead, we must appreciate Jordan Henderson for what he is, the fulcrum of Jurgen Klopp’s team. It may be our fantastic front three that hog the limelight but without players like Henderson behind them passing, probing, chasing and winning tackles, they’d have no platform upon which to perform. Make no mistake, Henderson’s name is one of the first on the managers team-sheet for big matches. His tactical discipline, positioning and energy will be vital against the movement and vision of Kroos, Modric and Casemiro. We’ll need all of his of athleticism and relentless pressing if we’re to win the game. So whether you’re in Kiev, peering through the window of a packed-out city centre boozer or watching the game at home, get behind Henderson.
And get on board with the idea of him becoming a Liverpool great.