Henderson out to make up for lost time
What should have been the most fulfilling two years of Jordan Henderson's Liverpool career have instead been the most infuriating.
Since being made club captain in 2015, Henderson's past two seasons have been interrupted by freakish foot injuries, the most recent of which he described as "devastating" as he sat out the climax to his side's top-four challenge. He sacrificed his summer break to prepare for the new campaign.
"I can't remember the last time I had a full pre-season, so by the end of it I hope I will be very, very fit," said the 27-year-old, having played two friendlies in 72 hours. Henderson missed most of Jurgen Klopp's first season. Then, having established himself in a new role as a No 6 - playing the best football of his career - what seemed an innocuous knock at Melwood proved more serious.
"I was flying and feeling really good, and then I got a bad kick in training on the top of my foot," he said. "At first I thought it was just a bruise but it kept getting worse and then we had to get a scan and it was quite bad. I was devastated. I was feeling good - the best I have ever felt - so to have a blow like that late on in the season when it was such an important time for us was a big blow."
Although Liverpool's return to playing duties at Tranmere and Wigan this week was low-key, for Henderson it was more significant.
"It was a big moment for me," he said. "To go back on the pitch and get the kit on, back with the lads, the little things make a difference when you want to play football again."
As ever, there is a sense of starting again before a new season. The competition for places in Liverpool's midfield will be fierce, particularly if the pursuit of Red Bull Leipzig's Naby Keita proves successful. Keita's potential arrival will leave Henderson, Adam Lallana, Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can competing for the remaining midfield spots. The promise of Philippe Coutinho playing a deeper role to accommodate Mohamed Salah's arrival further underlines the luxury of options available to Klopp.
"Even if I did not get injured, you feel you have to prove yourself with all the competition if players arrive," said Henderson. "There is plenty of competition for places. We have a fantastic group of players who want a better season this year.
"We have to set the bar very high with the squad, the players we have got and the manager we have got. We want to be winning things. We will go into every game wanting to win and every tournament we are in wanting to win.
"We always want to improve as a team. We have brought a couple of players in and have a couple of players coming back from injury. Everyone wants to improve and I think we have a young squad, getting better and learning. Last year put us in good stead, and hopefully we will have a better season."
Sunday Indo Sport