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Jordan Henderson's Liverpool turnaround mirrors Lucas's Anfield torment

By Richard Buxton



Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson (R) competes with Norwich City's Scottish midfielder Robert Snodgrass (L) during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Norwich City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, northwest England, on January 19, 2013
Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson (R) competes with Norwich City's Scottish midfielder Robert Snodgrass (L) during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Norwich City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, northwest England, on January 19, 2013

The pathway to success at Liverpool is a well-worn one but that of the underdog has rarely been trodden in the unforgiving sink-or-swim environment of the Premier League era.

Yet Jordan Henderson has become the second player in Anfield's recent history to stem this particular tide, when all appeared to be lost, with this season's resurgent performances.

It is a far cry from the midfielder that endured a confidence-shattering first 12 months on Merseyside, which was blighted by an inflated price tag, with the definitive figure remaining a subject of debate, and a lack of support from managers and supporters respectively.  

Following his arrival in 2011, the denouement was that Liverpool had acquired a long-term successor to Steven Gerrard with a passing style which at times resembled that of their illustrious former playmaker Xabi Alonso.

Instead, he found himself not only shouldering an excessive valuation but doing so in a largely unfamiliar position as he was thrust into an ill-fitting wide role by Kenny Dalglish in order to accommodate Charlie Adam, now very much in his comfort zone with Stoke City, in central midfield.

With Dalglish's second reign came an unrealistic belief that his outdated methods would generate the same level of success of the club and its players in his managerial heyday and as a consequence, Henderson faced cross-examination by an overexpectant Kop.

The premature barracking the midfielder was subjected to would be enough to dampen any new player's confidence, let alone one who had gone about his career in a mild-mannered and timid fashion that matches a personality relatively ill-fitting of a modern day footballer.

An instinctive half volley to engineer the Reds' onslaught against Norwich last weekend illustrated why Henderson has gained international recognition at all levels with England and retain the under-21 captaincy, even while enduring that torturous debut season.

Brendan Rodgers believed that it was 'always going to take time' for Henderson to settle into life at Anfield yet was himself willing to sacrifice the 22-year-old as a makeweight in last summer's desperate pursuit of Fulham's Clint Dempsey, who went on to join Tottenham.

Had that unsuccessful chase for the American reached a different conclusion, it could have proved a fatal error on Liverpool's part, given how Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin both struggled to adapt to their new surroundings, with the Real Madrid loanee leaving after just four months.

It is a situation which mirrors that of Lucas Leiva, another maligned midfielder who also endured a rocky road to redemption and prospered from both Alonso's move to Real Madrid in 2009 and the failure of his replacement, Alberto Aquilani, to retain fitness or consistency.

The Brazilian, too, experienced the fear of being cut adrift by his new manager during Roy Hodgson's short-lived tenure, when he was the subject of an offer from Stoke City, fast becoming the biggest movers and shakers of recent deadline days, in summer 2010.

His turnaround in fortunes was typified by the horror with which plenty of Liverpool fans greeted news of the Potters' interest; a world away from the player that was booed on by the home crowd as a substitute in the 70th minute his side's win over Sunderland in March 2009.

Countless of Anfield's best-known alumni regularly regale after dinner audiences with their own stories of navigating their way through the gruelling tests that paved the way into the first team and, between them, Lucas and Henderson have set a similar marker for the current generation.