Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s habit is about to make two England stars nervous
As a player whose career has been defined by proving doubters wrong, this summer is nothing new for Jordan Henderson.
Still recovering from groin surgery when England’s final team for this summer’s Euro was confirmed, the Liverpool captain was seen as a controversial choice in some quarters.
And a friendly 45-minute outing before the tournament with a missed penalty did little to silence critics, who seemed far less disturbed by the fact that Harry Maguire had yet to resume training.
Since then, Henderson has been forced to watch Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice consolidate as England’s preferred starting partnership.
In fact, his impact has largely been confined to a behind-the-scenes leadership role, which Gareth Southgate recently alluded to in advocating for his inclusion on the team.
He said: “What he brings to the squad on the training ground, around the camp, his experience, the way he can talk to some of the other players in these quiet times around the hotel, the way that he trains, the way he approaches his job, it’s a big advantage for us to have him on the team.
âAll of these pieces are essential to create a winning environment. “
But you don’t achieve what Henderson has by just functioning as just the cheerleader on the team, and he’ll be determined to make a bigger impact as the tournament progresses.
The chance to do just that is likely to present itself on Saturday, with changes to the midfield being considered in order to protect Rice and Phillips from the reservation that would earn them a one-game suspension.
And Henderson will be desperate to use any potential debut to prove he should feature more prominently if England keep moving forward.
A big performance won’t make things any easier for Southgate, who must consider what they’ll need as the going gets tough and the stakes are higher.
Yes, Rice and Phillips have impressed so far, but they lack the big game experience and know-how compared to the man so eager to replace them.
And even their manager would recognize that a strong performance against Germany included a 10-minute spell early on where their midfielder was overtaken time and time again.
Henderson is a Premier League and Champions League winner who has played a key role in Liverpool dominating some of Europe’s most talented midfielders in recent years.
Can Southgate really afford to continue to leave him out as England head to the brutal end of Euro this summer?
Perhaps the most crucial factor is that Henderson scores a point by showing his best against Ukraine if he gets the green light as expected.
Perhaps the Liverpool skipper’s habit of exceeding expectations should make Rice and Phillips nervous as they look to hold onto their places.