Laughably overpriced, massively overrated and just plain average. Jordan Henderson was condemned right from the start of his Liverpool career.
Although the above statements reeked of short-sightedness and refused to give a young, promising player a chance, football fans (including a fair amount of Liverpool fans) were prepared to instantly write off the lad from Sunderland.
Henderson completed a £16 million (or more, depending on who you believe) move to Anfield on June 9, 2011 as a part of Kenny Dalglish’s British spending spree.
He was joined by Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam in a Damien Comolli-inspired strategy to sign the Premier League’s most prolific creators to feed newly signed targetman Andy Carroll.
In the 2010/11 season, Jordan Henderson created 82 chances for Sunderland players – a stat that clearly showed his ability to conjure opportunities for his team mates to finish.
But on the pitch, Henderson was failing to add any tangible benefit to Liverpool’s play. His first season yielded only two goals and a solitary assist, despite the fact the he appeared in all but one of Liverpool’s 38 Premier League games.
His confidence was clearly low, and when neutrals and fans alike jumped on his back, he looked to sink even lower.
By the end of the season, the then-21-year-old (as well as the rest of Liverpool’s new British recruits) was a prime example of why clubs should avoid British talent – they are overpriced, over-hyped and usually don’t live up to expectations.
But if nothing else, Jordan Henderson was persistent.
When other players would have caved under the ever-mounting pressure, Henderson used it as motivation to ensure that his next year with Liverpool would be better.
As Henderson’s second season with Liverpool progressed, he was quietly improving, quietly receiving plaudits from Liverpool fans, and ever so quietly becoming an integral part of Brendan Rodgers’ philosophy.
Despite starting the season playing a bit-part role from the bench, he eventually forced his way into Liverpool’s starting XI with his lung-busting runs, non-stop pressing and never-say-die attitude.
He finished the season with a much improved five goals and four assists (despite appearing in less games than the previous year), but more importantly, with a new-found swagger and confidence.
This season, Henderson has been undroppable – the combative Wearside midfielder has arguably become Liverpool’s most important midfielder – and is the only Liverpool player (besides goalkeeper Simon Mignolet) to have started all 20 Premier League matches.
And since the injury to Steven Gerrard, Henderson has moved up yet another notch. Robust, all-round performances against West Ham, Tottenham, Cardiff and Hull City have finally earned him recognition from analysts and pundits across the country.
He has seemingly improved every facet of his game – he contributes two key passes per game (only Gerrard and Suarez have more) and boasts an impressive 87 per cent pass completion rate.
Additionally, he has developed a telepathic relationship with Luis Suarez; all five of Henderson’s assists this season have been to his Uruguayan team mate.
His continued development is a massive plus to Liverpool. Not only has he started to live up to his relatively large transfer fee, but he finally looks at home on Merseyside; and as Liverpool look for a long-term replacement for Steven Gerrard, Henderson’s monumental improvement could not come at a better time.
2013 marks the end of Jordan Henderson the overpriced youngster – gone is the boy who lacks not only self-confidence, but also the genuine belief that he is in fact a Liverpool-calibre player.
We are now seeing him for what he is – a fantastic passer, an extraordinary athlete, an obsessive presser of the ball, a vocal leader and above all, a player who knows that he possesses the aforementioned qualities.
Forget the boy, this is Jordan Henderson the man.