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Here we go again. With the season now drawing to a close (finally), the debate on who should win this year’s ‘Player of the Year’ award is in full swing. Really, the decision is simple. Manchester City star, Kevin De Bruyne is captivating, he is cool and calm, and he is class; world-class. Quite simply, he is head and shoulders above every other player in the league. So, this year’s winner, for me, should be…Jordan Henderson.
Wait…what? ‘How does that work?’, I hear you ask.
De Bruyne is the best among the best. City’s team is oozing opulence and, if you take De Bruyne out of it, they still finish the league in second; they still win the EFL Cup (not that anyone cares); they still make it to the FA Cup semi-final, and they still make it to the Champions League knockout stages. But if you take Henderson out of that Liverpool team, I’m not sure that they even win the league – never mind by such a considerable margin.
Who would have thought that some plucky, bang-average Geordie from a pitiful Sunderland side would have risen to such dizzying heights? Who would have thought that he would take the number and the armband from the man who was (and still is) the heartbeat of the club and the city of Liverpool; Steven Gerrard? Who would have thought that he would become the backbone and the driving force of a team that secured back-to-back Champions League Finals, a FIFA Club World Cup, and one of the most dominant Premier League wins ever seen? Not me.
There’s no doubt that there will always be an asterisk next to this season – the COVID-19 asterisk. It truly has been a troubling time and it has had worldwide impacts that go far beyond the world of sport.
(If you want to read more about the impacts to the world of sport make sure you read my earlier article: ‘When the footballing world stops turning, where do we turn?’).
Matt Hancock called on footballers to “play their part” – perhaps not realising the astonishing work that many footballers do for their communities every day. But the way in which Jordan Henderson stepped up and ‘played his part’ was second to none. He started the #PlayersTogether initiative that brought the Premier League’s players together (the clue really is in the name) and compiled a collective donation from their pay-cuts to support the NHS in the most effective way possible.
With five assist and 4 goals in 30 games this season, Henderson’s stats don’t even begin to compare with De Bruyne’s – who has registered an unbelievable 18 assists and 11 goals in 33 games. But this far from tells the whole story. Firstly, Henderson is a deep-lying midfielder; he keeps the team kicking and supplies a much-needed tempo. He essentially drives the team and ensures that they keep ticking over. De Bruyne, on the other hand, is a luxury player. He’s basically a more talented and harder working Mesut Ozil. De Bruyne’s job is to be effective in the final third; to provide assists and goals.
English Champions, European Champions, World Champions. Gerrard’s boots have been filled and I can think of no one better to hold the torch. Henderson has opened the cage and set the dormant Liver bird free, and now, he will never walk alone.