A former Anfield team-mate of the England international has reflected on a tough start for the midfielder on Merseyside and his rise to the top
Jordan Henderson is on course to become a Liverpool legend, says Glen Johnson, with the Reds skipper having overcome a tough start to life at Anfield, which included a training ground bust-up with Luis Suarez, to become a talismanic figure.
Eyebrows were raised when the Reds moved to bring in the hard-working midfielder from Sunderland during the summer of 2011.
The qualities he brought to the fold were not immediately apparent, while over-eagerness on the part of an up-and-coming talent led to him angering some of those he shared a dressing room with.
Suarez was among those who pushed Henderson to breaking point, with Johnson revealing that the man who now captains Liverpool had to take matters into his own hands when it came to winning over critics on Merseyside and further afield.
The former Reds defender told talkSPORT: “When Hendo turned up he was a young kid and at the start it was a bit like he was in awe of a few of the faces that were in the dressing room.
“Because he was such a hard-working kid and so eager to please, certain things weren’t coming off.
“It takes a bit of time to understand – no disrespect to Sunderland – that to go into Liverpool is a big step up and a big standard change.
“There were times in training when Hendo would make a minor mistake, maybe deliver a pass how somebody didn’t want it, and there would be a handful of players that would look at him as if, not actually roll their eyes at him, but have that body language as if to say ‘Oh, God, what’s he done again’.
“You could see it getting to him. I remember speaking to him and saying ‘You’re here for a reason so just keep doing what got you here in the first place’. I just told him to relax, it will happen and to let it come out rather than forcing it.
“There were a few people looking at Hendo in the wrong sort of way – this pass I can picture didn’t come off for Luis, so Luis was throwing his arms up and expecting more, so that is when Hendo snapped.
“I remember watching it and thinking ‘great, it’s good’. You can’t let people run all over you or think that they can, and he’s carried on with the same attitude in terms of how hard he works and the effort he wants to put in to improve.”
Asked how Suarez responded to Henderson snapping at him, Johnson added: “In a positive way. It was nowhere near a fight or anything like that, it was just to let him know he couldn’t run over him.
“It was just a little warning, but I think Luis respected it and a few of the others that were around Luis at the time respected it and they gave him a bit of a break.
“There was no doubt about it, you could see the boy could play. Liverpool aren’t silly and they didn’t buy him to walk into the team on that day. They bought him because they knew Stevie [Gerrard] wasn’t going to be around forever and they were tactically buying for a couple of years down the line.
“It’s tough when you get brought into a top team, young kids are going to struggle at first because it takes times to adapt.”
Henderson has gone on to take in 359 appearances for Liverpool, lifting Champions League and Club World Cup crowns with the club’s armband in place.
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He is now waiting to get his hands on the Premier League title, as Jurgen Klopp’s side close in on a first domestic coronation in 30 years, and Johnson believes the 29-year-old will go down in history as a Reds great.
“There are no signs of him going anywhere so I think if he stays there long enough, 100 per cent,” added the former England right-back.
“He’s won pretty much everything you can win and if he maintains this level for a few more years, then there’s no doubt about it.”