Following a miserable campaign disrupted by injury, Jordan Henderson says it felt great to be playing for England at Euro 2016.
The Liverpool captain suffered a difficult 2015/16 campaign, with patchy form and foot and ankle injuries limiting him to just 26 appearances in all competitions.
The 26-year-old made his first appearance of Euro 2016 for England on Monday evening, starting in the 0-0 draw with Slovakia in Saint-Etienne.
Henderson says it’s great to be back playing football again after what has been a tough year on a number of levels, admitting he’s been playing with injury at times last season.
“I’ve said before this has been the toughest season of my career so far, just because of injury, playing with injuries and stuff like that,” Henderson said.
“It has been difficult, mentally, physically, so even to be here is an honour for me really because I didn’t think I was going to be here. Monday was big for me.
“I always felt if I kept working hard and training hard I’d get an opportunity, and it came and hopefully the manager was happy with the contribution I made.
“I think the midfielders have done very well. Dele Alli has been brilliant, (Eric) Dier has been brilliant and Wazza (Wayne Rooney) has been fantastic. So there’s a lot of competition in the middle of the park but that goes for every area of the pitch.
“It’s down to the manager and what team he feels he needs to win the game, but I feel ready, I feel good.”
Henderson came in for some predictable criticism against Slovakia, with the Reds skipper an incredibly easy target when it comes to abuse from rival supporters.
In fact, the Reds skipper performed well on the night, barring some poor set-piece deliveries, enjoying a 91 per cent pass accuracy and creating four chances for teammates.
One outside-of-the-foot through-ball to Jamie Vardy was a contender for pass of the tournament so far, and he linked up very well with Nathaniel Clyne down the right flank.
Quite whether Henderson has done enough to earn a start for England’s last-16 clash next Monday is unknown – Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli will likely return to Roy Hodgson’s side – but he should be fairly pleased with his efforts.
He looked far more mobile than he did at any point for Liverpool last season, which suggests his injury nightmare is now behind him.
That can only bode well ahead of 2016/17.