Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, speaking in a fascinating interview on his time and struggles at Anfield, revealed the moment he was brought to tears after being asked to leave the club.
Henderson had made a move to Liverpool for an undisclosed fee, believed to be between £16 and £20 million, from Sunderland in 2011, when a year later he was offered the chance to leave.
Brendan Rodgers, who became Liverpool’s manager in the summer of 2012, had wanted to bring in Fulham’s Clint Dempsey, by including the now-Liverpool captain in a swap deal.
Henderson featured in 44 games for the Reds during his first season at the club, but Rodgers was willing to let go of the youngster, who received criticism from many fans during the his maiden season.
A lot has changed for the former Sunderland player now. In one week’s time, he will lead Liverpool out, as captain, against Real Madrid in the Champions League final, whilst he is likely to be named captain of England for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Speaking in an all-encompassing interview by Oliver Holt, for the Mail on Sunday, Henderson reveals he had a conversation with Rodgers, hours before a Europa League game against Hearts, that brought him to tears afterwards.
“Brendan called me in and said ‘Listen, this is the offer’ and he asked me what I thought,” says Henderson.
“It implied to me that he would let me leave and it was up to me. I went back to my room. I shed a few tears. I ended up crying a little bit because it hurt so much. I had the game that night to think about it as well.
“I spoke to my agent and told him what had happened and I said I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay and fight and try and improve and try to prove the manager wrong.
“My agent agreed. I spoke to my dad. He was gutted but he backed my decision to stay and fight.
“From that point, I just kept my head down. I knew I wouldn’t get as much game time as I wanted but I still had faith. I was young enough to get my head down, keep working hard, do my extra bits and prove them wrong and I feel I managed to do that by the time Brendan left.
“There are always those moments in football — and life in general — which can decide the path and the route you go down. For me it was never an option to leave.”
Whilst Henderson has been an ever-present under now manager Jurgen Klopp, who has often praised his importance to the side, he has continued to received criticism from sections of the support, but he says he is not fazed by others’ opinions.
“I don’t like reading good things about myself,” says Henderson.
“With the criticism and the negative things, I always think that makes me better. You need a little bit of good now and again but the good for me comes from the manager. That’s the good I enjoy, so if I’m told I’m doing my job right, brilliant. Anything outside of that, I tend not to get involved.
“I’m not particularly into people giving me credit. It’s not something I think about. It’s not important to me. The only thing that’s important is if I’m doing my job properly on the pitch for the team and for the manager. I don’t like talking about myself. I find it a lot easier talking about other people. I let the journalists do the talking about me if they want to. It’s entirely up to them, good or bad.
“I try to leave that to other people. I prefer talking about how well others are doing because that’s what I want. That’s what I try to do as a captain: give them a platform where they can go and perform as best they can.
“That’s a big role at Liverpool and I feel that the lads here have stepped up and that they enjoy playing at this football club. The manager always says you need to stay angry and never settle. He is always pushing us for more and more and I think negative things help with that.
“I can always accept criticism. Throughout my career, I’ve always had criticism and I think that’s good. Criticism’s healthy. It gives you that extra little bit inside you to prove people wrong, to use it as energy, to use it as fuel.”
The excellent interview by Holt, which deserves a read, provides a fascinating insight in to the man behind the player.
He speaks highly of his parents, and says the source of his hard-working ethic comes from “trying to be the best person“ he can be for “his team” and “his family”.
“I will be indebted to them for the rest of my life,” he says. “And I try to make them as proud as possible every time I play.
“When you are young, things can affect you,” he continues. “Football was my life. From when I was a little boy, football has always been the priority and the biggest thing in my life. No matter what else was around, that’s all I wanted to do. When things don’t go well, it does hurt. It affected me when I went home. It was a tough time but I felt I matured a lot.”
Henderson has taken on the role of being Liverpool skipper – following Steven Gerrard’s departure – with an assuring calmness. He is up against Harry Kane, to become England’s World Cup captain in Russia this summer.
His natural leading ability is clear in the way he speaks, as he highlights the importance of the team and work ethic he has helped preach at Liverpool as captain.
“It gives me great pleasure to see other players around us getting the rewards for our togetherness,” he continues.
“Mo’s awards mean a lot to me because it shows this group has helped him come here and settle into a great team. That shows how good this group of players is as well as what a great player he is.
“When I took the role on, I wanted to give everything to the team, like I always have, put them first and make sure we have a good dressing room of players who are prepared to work tirelessly for each other and have a good togetherness off the pitch and be a really close-knit group.
“I like that responsibility. That’s what I thrive off. I try to lead by example and I have done since I was a little boy. It’s in me as a person.”
The Liverpool midfielder also opened up on a time back in his early days at Anfield, when his father was diagnosed with throat cancer and how it helped shape him into “more of a man” as it “put things into perspective”.
His father, who has now recovered, will be in Kiev as he watches Henderson take to the field in a Champions League final against Real Madrid.
And Henderson believes the Reds need to grab the opportunity with both hands and create their own moment in history, despite being underdogs against the current holders.
“We’ll be the underdogs,” says Henderson. “But I know that if we can perform to the level we have been performing, then we can give them a right good game. We can take inspiration from what the legends of this club have achieved but this is about our history.”