'At last I feel ready to lead Liverpool,' admits skipper Henderson
Being named Liverpool captain is one thing, proving worthy of the honour another. Jordan Henderson admits he is making up for lost time in demonstrating his leadership credentials.
Taking the armband from Steven Gerrard a year ago was intimidating enough, but heel and knee injuries made it a season of physical and mental turmoil for the 26-year-old midfielder.
The appointment of Jurgen Klopp complicated the situation as Henderson's lack of football prompted suggestions that he might become surplus to requirements. But, buoyed by the public support of his manager and a pain-free pre-season, Henderson has never sounded more self-assured. And he has inherited at least one quality from Gerrard - searing honesty. "There were times last season when I was very down because I wasn't playing and I questioned my contribution as captain because of that," he says .
"Though there was never a time when I didn't want the captaincy, or doubted whether I was the right man for it, there were times when it was hard to feel like the captain because I wasn't contributing on the pitch.
"I couldn't help on the pitch as I wanted so Milly [James Milner], as vice-captain, had to take the role. It was a very difficult time. I feel as though I've come through that now. I'm in a much better place, I feel very confident. I am ready to lead this team and win things.
"The biggest thing for me last season was not the captaincy but not playing regularly. When you're not playing it is difficult to feel that you are the leader. That's a big difference with this season - I feel good, I feel fit - but there are a lot of leaders in the team."
It is a theme of Henderson's Anfield career how doubts were raised and erased as he won over a succession of managers. The £20 million fee when Kenny Dalglish signed him from Sunderland in 2011 caused some incredulity. Then came winning over Brendan Rodgers when the former manager tried to make him a makeweight in a deal to sign Clint Dempsey in 2012. Now Klopp has redefined his role as a deep-playing No 6. There is work to be done to validate that.
But the heel condition that plagued him for months has "completely gone" and Klopp's assurances on his future quickly ended a summer link with Tottenham. "I always felt, if I was linked with other clubs, that I had a good relationship with the manager and what he was saying to me was the total opposite to what other people were saying," says Henderson. "He knew what was going on. I still don't think he has seen the best of me yet. I have confidence in myself to prove people wrong again." (© Daily Telegraph, London)