Experienced wisdom says that the only thing more difficult than defending a league title the following season is defending and if Liverpool need to apologize, a few can be found.
This campaign is mentally tougher than most. Blocking the Coronavirus has consequences for everyone, including football players. In addition, there is less time than usual to reset and charge. The 2020-21 Premier League season kicks off in just seven weeks.
But Captain Jordan Henderson has heard the lecture, considered the schedule, and is unaffected.
“I’m ready now,” Henderson said without shrinking when he spoke to him Sports email on Friday.
Jordan Henderson has picked up some of the biggest trophies in football in the past 18 months but is determined to get stronger with Liverpool
“The day I woke up after lifting the trophy, it was the next challenge.
“I’ve listened to people who have won in the past and they say it’s hard to win the Premier League trophy, but even harder to keep it, so the challenge starts now.
“It will be a huge challenge, but myself and the team are ready for it.
“I like what the gaffer said. He said we will not defend the trophy, we will attack it.
“That is the perfect way for our football team. That is the mentality that we have shown in the past year. Improve, give everything on the football field and in training. Give everything.
Henderson has joined a select group of players to lead Liverpool to the league title
‘The free time is the same for everyone. That is no excuse. The boys would be ready to start the new Premier League tomorrow and do everything they can to keep the title. ‘
For Henderson, a dream couple of seasons will finally end when Liverpool play in Newcastle on Sunday.
A player who arrived from Sunderland as a 21-year-old nine years ago and hoped to join Kenny Dalglish’s team has raised Henderson’s Champions League, Club World Cup and Premier League trophies in 13 gilded months.
On Friday, it was revealed that he has been named Player of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association and joins a leading list of Liverpool players who have previously won the award. Players like Steven Gerrard, John Barnes, Dalglish, Emlyn Hughes and Kevin Keegan are already on the trophy.
“It is an incredible honor,” he said.
“There have been great players in the past who have won it and being part of that list is really great.
“It’s very hard to describe, but at the same time I would be wrong to sit here and accept this award just for me personally, because I look at the team and what they have accomplished in the past year and I think you can choose dressing room who would deserve it.
“So for me, it’s all about receiving it on their behalf, because without them it’s impossible.”
That’s a quintessential Henderson take on his career and life, reflecting a quality the 30-year-old saw at the forefront of the Players Together initiative formed during the break of the season.
Henderson received the prestigious Football Player Writers’ Player of the Year award this week
But the Sunderland-born star quickly ensures that his Liverpool teammates also share the praise
All he asks now is that the momentum and the fairly unprecedented unity between the 20 Premier League captains built up over the course of the lockdown should not stall.
“That was really positive in recent months when we were all in a bad situation,” Henderson added.
“Many captains and representatives have come together to do something good for the people who need it most. We are all very proud of that, something great for us.
“Put aside all rivalry and do something for the good of the country. The captains, players, representatives of each club have been incredible in recent months.
“In the future, I think we’ve started something really special, so if the players can come together in the future and do more things when they need to, I’m sure we can do that.”
The challenge for Liverpool next season will be significant. Rivals Manchester City are expected to recruit a lot, while another traditional enemy, Chelsea, has already done so. Manchester United is also unlikely to be a quiet summer.
The scope of the task is thus clear, which makes the Liverpool captain’s backstory fully fitting. Famously written off by former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson for having an unusual running style, Henderson also took a while to convince Brendan Rodgers he was good enough. Rodgers – Jurgen Klopp’s predecessor at Anfield – almost sold him.
Henderson has built a close relationship with Jurgen Klopp, who turned him into the team’s engine
“I think criticism can hurt sometimes,” he thought.
“You understand that criticism is an essential part of football, but if you are a young player it is more difficult to deal with it if you are not used to it.
“With a big club like Liverpool, the level of expectations can hit you. It is about learning as best as possible and dealing with it.
‘Through experience I have found ways to deal with it. Now I am looking for more criticism as a fuel to help me move forward.
“I will always try to get better. It is something that I will always do until I finish playing football. That’s a big part of life.
“You get setbacks and criticism, but it’s how you respond to those situations. Use it as energy and fuel and motivation to come back and improve. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do. ‘
Henderson has become a captain since Steven Gerrard hung his boots
Rodgers, it should be noted, was the Liverpool manager who gave Henderson the captain after Gerrard moved on. His progression to the role and then to the role was sort of a slow burn, but as a footballer improved, so did his leadership.
Captain of a club like Liverpool is no small responsibility. In English football, only the United captain weighs so heavily. Over time, Henderson has learned to adjust and value the tax.
“It’s a huge responsibility,” Henderson nodded.
“And I knew that when I took on the role. It’s such a huge club, but at the same time you got it for a reason.
“So for me it was all about doing everything I had done so far, but also growing and improving, learning and becoming a better player, a better person to help my teammates.
A mural is now being made in Liverpool to celebrate the captaincy of the team
“All I have done is to try to get them to perform as well as possible and create an environment where they feel comfortable expressing themselves, to perform at a high level.
“And I have the responsibility as captain to continue to do that, whether it be young players who join the squad or players who have been signed.
“The dressing room is a huge part, and I’m not alone. There are so many leaders in the dressing room in Liverpool who show and lead that. It would be wrong to say it’s all up to me. It certainly is not. ‘
A family vacation is now beckoning for Henderson. It may be time to think about the most remarkable year of his life, for good and bad reasons.
Part of him will regret not being involved in the Champions League closing which will take place in the first half of August. Liverpool’s defense of their crown ended in March with a defeat to Atletico Madrid.
But he goes to his short summer break as a Premier League champion. Those with designs to steal it away know that the bar has been set high.