How Klopp’s man management led to Jordan Henderson’s emergence & “exceptional season”

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Jurgen Klopp is a fervent admirer of his captain Jordan Henderson and has explained how he came to become aware that not everyone felt the same way – and what he did about it.

The No. 14 has played an integral role in the Reds’ success over the past couple of years, not the least of which has become a regular, and iconic, trophy lift routine.

But Henderson hasn’t had it plain sailing at Anfield, battling against outsider perception and even the possibility of being moved under former boss Brendan Rodgers.

More recently, there has been the difficulty of being the Reds’ first captain post-Steven Gerrard, a club legend and highly-regarded media profile.

Jurgen Klopp says that was a change for the outsiders to adjust to, and anybody not immediately reaching the ludicrously high standards that Gerrard set was instantly judged as inferior.

“People maybe need to get used to that – that somebody who is not Steven Gerrard has the captain’s armband – and he didn’t get the credit he would have deserved,” said the boss.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 20, 2015: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard hands the armband to Jordan Henderson as he is substituted against Chelsea during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“But since I am here, Hendo has played 90 per cent of the games he was available, if not more.

“I thought he played an exceptional season last season, to be honest.”

That season, of course, culminated in the Champions League victory, with Henderson growing in stature along with the team since then.

But Klopp says he has evidence that Hendo was taking massive strides even before that, with his closer-than-most eye on the captain and managerial nous enabling him to take pride in his growth and point out what needed improving, regardless of what match ratings or other outsiders thought.

As can often be the case, the manager looks for rather different in-game attributes and moments of affecting the game than the average supporter or journalist might—leading to happiness in the dressing room being out of whack with the written word.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - Wednesday, August 14, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson lifts the trophy, alongside goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo, after winning the Super Cup after the UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Besiktas Park. Liverpool won 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“They were big, big steps. There were a lot of good games which were not seen as good games before that. I got told that [newspapers and people criticised his performances], I didn’t realise it, so thank God somebody told me so I could help him maybe a little bit to judge these things right.

“I heard that people were not happy with this or this or this and I could then react to that.

“It’s important that I can say I’m completely happy with the performance even when the public perception is different – you get grades that look like you weren’t really relevant on the pitch and if I see it differently, then I tell it to the players.

“I know exactly what was expected so it’s the more important feedback. If you fulfilled that job, it’s good.

“If he scores two goals, but other things went wrong for example, then I would tell him as well. That’s what a coach does. I need to know about these things so I can work with it.”

Comparing Henderson’s progression as a player to that of his former Borussia Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl, Klopp says that nobody can take away from the No. 14 what he has achieved to-date, but that there is more he can yet achieve after transforming himself as a player more than once.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 19, 2020: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield.(Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I knew Hendo before I came here as a proper box-to-box player who can make the difference with power, his speed as well and stuff like this – the desire he puts on the pitch. He was 25 when I came here, it’s the best age to improve, the best age to make the next steps.

“He is now calmer in certain situations. His self-awareness, self-confidence grew again from a proper level.”

That self-confidence will only continue to grow when he goes on to surely lift the Premier League title later this season, something not even Gerrard managed.

Klopp has been proven right many times over, but perhaps a supporter- and nation-wide acceptance of Henderson being a genuinely top-level player might be one of the manager’s more niche, and finer, accomplishments.

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