Jordan Henderson is about to join an elite list of Liverpool legends by leading his side into a Champions League semi-final. It hasn’t come easy for Henderson though. He’s faced criticism throughout his time at Liverpool, with Brendan Rodgers even attempting to offload the player just 12 months after his arrival.
Henderson arrived in 2011 as a part of a big investment into the squad following the departure of Fernando Torres. The club received a then British record fee for their star striker (£50m) on deadline day of the January transfer window.
Having fallen out of the Champions League picture, the board were eager to appease fans by reinvesting that money. It would prove to be an ill-fated bunch of arrivals, including Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam, Craig Bellamy and Alexander Doni - all of whom arrived with a modest reputation and for a combined total of over £80m.
But a lot of fans were unimpressed with their quality of play. Four of those signings would depart Anfield the following summer and Henderson nearly joined them, with a potential switch to Fulham lined up.
Henderson instead opted to stay and fight for his place, eventually becoming captain and making over 250 appearances for the club. For many fans though, Henderson has never really escaped the stink of that underwhelming bunch and still remains an unpopular figure.
His popularity struggles were only compounded when he took over the mantle as captain from club legend Steven Gerrard, which drew unfavourable comparisons for the player. As Liverpool prepare for their doubleheader with Roma, Henderson continues to ignore his critics and is just remaining focused on all that he has achieved with the club.
Jordan Henderson vs Sevilla— LFC Stats (@LFCData) November 21, 2017
0 tackles won
0 aerial duels won
“As a footballer, moments like this you dream about as a kid. When it comes, everything before it - every struggle, every test that you have had - will put you in good stead for a game like this,” he told the Mirror.
“Playing in the semi-final of the Champions League at Anfield. It's what you play football for, up against the top European sides. It is a huge occasion not only for me but for all the players.
“You have to give everything you have got, always have belief that no matter what state the game is in, how well or how poor you might be doing, that you can come through and get through to the final.”
It seems Henderson is enjoying his time under Jurgen Klopp as he was full of praise for the manager and the club.
"This is the first of [many] huge games and hopefully we can have many more to come over the next few years.
“I feel as though we are in a great place but I feel that this is just the start of something special.
“The manager is always pushing you to improve, he's always maintaining high standards. He's an amazing manager and everyone in the squad feels privileged to be working with him.
“I feel as though I've improved a lot since he came to the football club and hopefully I can improve a lot more over the next few years."
Henderson has had to develop a thick skin in his time at Anfield and feels he is better for it. The Liverpool captain now looks forward to writing his own chapter in the club's storied history, adding:
“Of course we all know the history of the club and how brilliant it is. We definitely take inspiration from that.
“But at the same time, our focus is to create our own history and for people to be looking back at this team in 20 or 30 years time and saying how good we were and how special this year was or the next few years will be.
“It makes it special, a huge night, but you have to keep your focus on doing your job to the best of your ability and give everything in the game. You want to look back on a fantastic performance as a team and get the result as well.”
Roma definitely represents the more favourable draw for Liverpool, with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich making up the other semi-final. Many consider the Reds to be favourites for the Champions League this year after the way they disposed of Manchester City in the last round. Roma will present a very different challenge though and also had an excellent quarter-final, overturning a 4-1 deficit against Barcelona.