“£20m for Jordan Henderson,” says the bloke in the high-vis jacket. “I’d bite their hands off.” The man behind the sandwich counter grunts in agreement while some other football guru claims he’s seen better park players than the new Liverpool signing. Course you have mate, course you have.
From the reaction of many of my fellow Sunderland fans you’d have thought that £20m from Liverpool was heading directly into their back pocket. But what is money and who’s to know the ins and outs of the deal? 100% cash upfront? Add-ons for international caps? Bonuses for Liverpool sweeping all before them in Europe? An extra tenner if Henderson pulls Rooney’s new hair at the next red on red Scouse-Manc derby?
Who knows? I’m not that interested in delving into the finances of this particular deal. I’ve already read dozens of amateur accountants on forums claiming it’s great/terrible (delete as appropriate) business for Sunderland. That’s without direct access to either club’s current bank accounts or inside knowledge on how we’ll spend Bruce’s Millions. Impressive stuff.
In reality it comes down to this… if Liverpool win either the Premier League or Champions League with Henderson as a part of that particular team it’ll be money well spent. It’s as simple as that for them. From Sunderland’s point of view who it allows us to buy isn’t the point of this piece, it’s what we’ve lost that interests me.
In more than 20 years of following Sunderland’s fortunes only two players have came through the youth set-up and genuinely looked like they could crash into the conscious of the top-class clubs. One was Michael Bridges, deprived of England caps and a glittering career by a hat-trick of cruciate ligament injuries, while the other is Henderson. So what’s he like as a player? He’ll be a familiar name to many but in the same way I don’t know too much about Phil Jones – save the odd bit of hype on Match of the Day – I suspect there’s plenty of fans scratching their heads.
Your £20m has got you an extremely energetic, dedicated, and confident young midfielder. If he adds goals and a little composure to his game you’ve got a star
While I’m adept at describing the intricacies, nuances and technique of players with great clarity of mind and precision I don’t think that much effort is needed with Henderson to be honest. Just think cartoons. If Carlos Tevez is, in both looks and action, The Tasmanian Devil then Henderson is The Road Runner. A fairly static, upright posture, belies a swift set of legs, he prefers running in straight lines and, crucially, he just doesn’t stop.
He’s a very modern footballer – athletic, quick, and disciplined (both on and off the pitch). In terms of technique he’s pretty tidy too although he’s no challenger to, say, Jack Wilshire on that score. That’s not to say he’s going to be out of his depth at the highest level though, only time will tell, although the media kicking he took after his full international debut against France back in November 2010 was a little harsh. He was played out of position as a holding midfielder, rather than the box-to-box role he likes, in an extremely inexperienced England team. Little wonder he (and they) struggled.
The general consensus from Anfield seems to be that they’re well stocked in central midfield so I’d imagine Henderson’s primary role next season would be as a right-winger freeing up Kuyt, when needed, to play as a striker. In the long run however I’d expect to see him in the middle where he’s played most of his games at the Stadium of Light.
While Sunderland’s collapse obviously got to him him let’s not forget he was part of the team too and not exempt from criticisms during that terrible run. He’s still yet to exert his influence over games as consistently as he looks capable of doing and isn’t the world’s greatest in the air. Neither is he from the Lee Clattermole school of tackling, although personally I’d class that a good thing as he can play smart and stay on his feet.
A record of only four league goals in almost two full seasons doesn’t suggest he’s going to be the goal-scoring midfielder Liverpool need when Gerrard bows out although let’s not forget even Captain Marvel only got 11 league goals in his first four seasons. Having said that expecting Henderson to be the next Gerrard, a player of astonishing, almost incomparable all-round ability, is both unrealistic and unfair.
Henderson ain’t the new Gerrard although hopefully he isn’t the new Jimmy Carter either. Expect the world from him next season and you’ll be disappointed. Your £20m has got you an extremely energetic, dedicated, and confident young midfielder. If he adds goals and a little composure to his game you’ve got a star. I hope you enjoy having him, because I’ll definitely miss him.
Click here for more Liverpool stories
Click here for more Football and Sport stories
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook