Today will mark something special. Not necessarily life affirming for most. Not even anything particularly outstanding for the World Cup. As I have previously declared I feel little connection with the England team. This is a group game and probably not even the most significant group game England will play, but it is significant for one player in particular. A player who has worked hard. He has never been the headline grabber, never the Messi or Ronaldo but he has grafted.
In his time at Sunderland he showed real promise. Finally we had a youth product who wasn’t all about lording it in Indie. A player who loved football and would work so hard to make it at the top level. Jordan Henderson may divide opinion across the football world with many armchair fans failing to see what he brings to the game but we have seen it. Perhaps it’s with rose tinted glasses that we now view Jordan Henderson, perhaps we see him as an icon because of his past. Forgive us that, we have not seen a player come through our ranks and go on to be a central piece of a champions league finals team and an England captain. We haven’t seen one of our own reach such heights.
We also need to draw back the inevitable feeling that he will let us down. Not from an England perspective, but from the perspective that he carries a city’s pride on his shoulders. I become incredibly defensive when I see Arsenal or Man Utd fans criticising him. I see a player who makes a difference. Steven Gerrard’s slip is lauded as the moment Liverpool lost the title. Some would argue that Henderson’s first career red card leading to a suspension for three of the four last games had more impact than that slip. Prior to his sending off Liverpool were on a rich winning streak. His suspension left a gap.
I have my own memories of Henderson, others have theirs. What rings true throughout is his professionalism. His will to be at the top of his ability. Whether that is being the first on the training ground and the last off or joining his mam’s aerobic session at Silksworth. Henderson cares. We have seen many prospects at Sunderland; from the lightning hair of a prodigious Sean Thornton to the river dancing feet of Kieron Brady but Jordan Henderson had determination.
Whilst I will not wave a flag of St George I will get behind a player who is one of our own. A player who has battled through his own private tragedies. I will beat my chest and sing England songs for Jordan Henderson. I will also get the rave on for another England player. But that’s another story.