Included in the ESM Team of the Year and PFA Team of the Year along with well-deserved awards as Liverpool Fans’ and FWA Footballer of the Year, there is just one more thing that I think Jordan Henderson deserves. To win BBC Sports Personality of the Year being good at your chosen sport is the easy bit, it’s the personality that has to shine through and I believe he is the one who deserves it.
From starting out at Sunderland’s academy at the age of eight, his arrival on Merseyside in 2011, earning a starting position week in week out, becoming captain, winning a sixth European title for Liverpool and now a first league title in thirty years – Jordan Henderson has come a long way since Brendan Rodgers told him he could leave. Henderson didn’t want to go and it has taken patience to prove his worth as a player that is unquestionably a Liverpool great.
Remember when Jurgen Klopp arrived in October 2015? I remember that press conference well. In came a man who had done all the right things in Germany, ready to start a new adventure in English football. Klopp’s quest? To win the Premier League within five years. Some laughed and some believed it was possible. The players at his disposal needed a boost and in Jordan Henderson you had a new captain after Steven Gerrard marred by injury, a key player missing. On his return, goals were scored (remember that 25-yard screamer against Chelsea in 2016?) and leadership was in abundance. Passionate on the pitch, dedicated to the cause and a range of passing that is just brilliant – you cannot deny that Jordan Henderson doesn’t deserve recognition.
To arrive at the destination of winning trophies it takes time. What defines Liverpool at the moment is the building process Klopp has undergone to construct a team that is world class, has gone through the low points and could now go on to win back-to-back Premier League titles.
At the heart of the construction lies the captain.
What position Jordan Henderson suited remained a head scratcher under both Rodgers and Klopp. At first a defensive midfielder until Fabinho’s arrival in 2018 changed everything. A box-to-box midfielder, the “number 8” position just slightly to the right, Henderson is creative, defensive, tactically aware and the beating heart of the team. When the opposition are in possession he presses high and with the ball attacking runs are the biggest strength. Football isn’t about one individual but in Henderson we have a player who’s consistent at doing what he does best. For the previous two seasons this Liverpool team has been a joy to watch, Jordan Henderson himself the vital part of the machine.
What I admire about him is the mentality to come back from a Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in 2018, pick yourself up and lead your teammates to rectify the wrongs and go again. To come back and secure a sixth Champions League, knowing that the title was going Manchester City’s way and overturning a three goal deficit against Barcelona to make the final a year after losing before takes something special mentally.
August 2019 introduced a new target. Could Liverpool win the league? I don’t think there was any doubt. Victory week in week out, not entirely a 100% winning season but a Premier League nonetheless. You might be thinking, so what? Why should I vote for Jordan Henderson to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2020?
The year has been depressing for all the wrong reasons. Liverpool, indeed the whole of the UK, ravaged by a virus that doesn’t care who you are or where you come from. Our lives disrupted, empty stadiums and those that we hold dear killed. The city knows all too well what human tragedy looks and feels like, a community that may have a rivalry between red and blue but united in one common cause to come together.
Celebrating a thirty-year wait with no fans at Anfield must have been hard to stomach. For me the maturity and intelligence of Jordan Henderson and others in football have shined bright this year. Marcus Rashford and his campaign to feed hungry kids undoubtedly deserves credit as does Henderson organising a fund to raise millions for the NHS – #Players Together, all 20 Premier League captains with one objective to help our health service.
It is this care for a local community and country that deserves praise. Helping the NHS, being supportive to an LGBT fan just the other week on Twitter and standing shoulder to shoulder for the Black Lives Matter movement merits a BBC SPOTY award this weekend. Read his interview with Jonathan Liew for The Guardian and you’ll see why I think he deserves to win. “I would like to see politicians coming together a lot more to find the best solutions. Not the best solution for them, or what gets them the most votes. What’s best for the people of the country? How do we look after each other? How do we all come together?”.
Footballers get a lot of stick. Yes some have made mistakes this year but overall they’ve been an easy target by some of our own politicians. Jordan Henderson speaks with maturity by doing the right thing, helping others out, uniting people rather than dividing people – something all of us need to take heed of.
This is a footballer that commands respect and he’s also selfless. He accepts awards but cares about those that have put him in a position to win on the pitch, recognising the team. A Champions League, a Club World Cup, and a Premier League delivered. Over 50 appearances for England, many more still to come and most likely more trophies to come at Liverpool.
The six candidates for BBC SPOTY 2020 all have reasons why they should win for their actions away from sport. Not winning the prize won’t be the end of the world but for me with painted murals around Anfield already, Jordan Henderson has done enough to gain an extra prize.