Jordan Henderson sealed his place as a Liverpool great in 2019/20, as his Roy of the Rovers story reached its most epic chapter yet.
Last season was one that saw Henderson cement something close to legendary status at Anfield, lifting the European Cup after a campaign that improved drastically as it went on.
The sneers once aimed in his direction were long gone and his divisive nature as a footballer had also largely disappeared.
As a new campaign got underway in August, all eyes were on Henderson to see how he would kick on after such personal glory, and whether he would remain a key man.
The Premier League title was up for grabs – an achievement that the captain surely knew would etch his name into Reds folklore forever.
Jordan Henderson, 2019/20
Started: (All competitions) 36
On as a substitute: 4
Unused sub: 3
Overall Season Rating: 9
Leading from the front
One of the great myths surrounding Henderson’s season is that he made a poor start and failed to get going until Christmas.
In fact, the skipper was a prominent performer in those early weeks, as Liverpool flew out of the blocks and built a lead over Man City.
Authoritative showings in four victories over Norwich, Arsenal, Burnley and Chelsea helped Jurgen Klopp‘s men maintain a 100 percent, with three of the performances earning him an eight-out-of-10 in This Is Anfield’s player ratings.
Adopting the more attack-minded midfield role that he had excelled in back in the spring, there was a combination of energy and quality about Henderson’s displays, with Fabinho acting as a perfect shield behind him.
He was extremely poor on both occasions, leading to inevitable calls from some for him to be dropped.
The turning point
There is actually a clear point at which Henderson’s season not only got back on track again, but in fact went up an almighty gear.
Having been at fault for Harry Kane’s early opener at home to Tottenham, the England international returned to the pitch a different player after half-time.
It was his well-taken equaliser that helped inspire the Reds to yet another gutsy victory in their title quest and from that point on Henderson never looked back.
When Fabinho got injured against Napoli in November, there was understandable anxiety surrounding the Brazilian’s lengthy absence, such was his influence.
It meant Henderson reverted to the No. 6 role that many felt he was limited in, and there were fears that Liverpool’s entire title bid could be badly affected.
Instead, Fabinho became something of a forgotten man – unthinkable at the time – and Henderson found a level of form never produced in his career to date.
Superb both on and off the ball, he revelled in his responsibility and was soon running games from deep and contributing greatly.
One sensational long-range pass to assist Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Bournemouth summed up his creativity, as did his role in Roberto Firmino‘s winner in the Club World Cup final, clinching yet another trophy as captain.
The imperious form continued into January, when a headed opener and late assist for Firmino inspired Liverpool to victory away to Wolves.
It was no surprise to see Footballer of the Year talk heading in Henderson’s direction, as he not only shone on the pitch, but continued to be an exemplary leader off it.
That was highlighted by his heavy involvement in the Players Together campaign, in support of the NHS, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A Liverpool icon forever
There was an inevitability about Liverpool’s title win by the time football returned in June, as Henderson sat on the cusp of getting his hands on the Premier League trophy.
Granted, the title was won by then, but there was an intensity and professionalism missing without Henderson around that had also been evident earlier in the season, most notably in the shock 3-0 loss at Watford.
Henderson’s big moment finally arrived on July 22, as he was greeted by his joyous team-mates on the Kop prior to hoisting the trophy aloft.
Of all the many likeable players celebrating on the podium, it was hard not to feel most delighted for the skipper, following an incredible journey.
Having been mocked during his younger years, coming close to leaving the club and suffering numerous injury issues, Henderson has soared in the last two seasons.
Now a European, world and English champion, and the captain of this once-in-a-generation Liverpool outfit, his immortality is secured.
Against all odds, Henderson stepped well and truly out of Gerrard’s shadow and achieved something even his legendary predecessor never managed.
It is one of the great Liverpool redemption stories.
The future role
Moving forward, it will be fascinating to see where Henderson goes from here.
There is no doubt that he will once again go into 2020/21 as a hugely important figure, however, demanding only the best from his team-mates and getting every ounce out of his ability.
Should Naby Keita continue is his current vein, though, it could be that we begin to see Henderson very slowly take up James Milner‘s role of the experienced squad player who doesn’t start every week.
That isn’t to be expected straight away, of course – Henderson warrants being one of the first names on the teamsheet upon the restart – but Klopp may begin to manage his minutes a little more carefully.
Henderson has made a career out of proving people wrong, though, so it would be no surprise to see him put together another strong campaign as Liverpool look to defend their title.
The time will come when his powers begin to wane, not least his limitless energy, but for now, he remains a footballer riding the crest of a wave.
Best moment: The image of Henderson lifting the trophy is one of the most iconic in Reds history, so that has to be the high point.
Worst moment: Being substituted in angry fashion at United, following a wretched display – prior to his replacement Adam Lallana equalising late on.
Role next season: A key player once again, but expect a little less playing time due to the emergence of Keita.