Press "Enter" to skip to content

‘The defeats always stay’: Jordan Henderson reflects on near misses | World Cup 2022


Jordan Henderson cannot help it. Put simply, it is a part of what makes him who he is. The Liverpool and England midfielder feels the setbacks way more keenly than the triumphs; he holds on to them so tightly that they never truly leave him.

“The defeats always stay,” Henderson says. “I can remember them more than the wins. They hurt the most. That’s the part where you want to change things and put them right but you never get rid of that feeling.”

Henderson is acknowledging two specific losses – the first with Liverpool in the 2018 Champions League final to Real Madrid; the other with England in the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties. But there are others. Liverpool narrowly missing out on the Premier League title to Manchester City in 2018-19, despite finishing with 97 points. The second Champions League final defeat to Real last season.

Quick Guide

Qatar: beyond the football

Show

This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

Photograph: Caspar Benson

Thank you for your feedback.

In his recently released autobiography, Henderson rakes over another grave – his penalty shootout miss against Colombia at the 2018 World Cup. He describes the moment in vivid detail, how he felt his world collapse, his mind overrun by negativity.

“All I was thinking was: ‘I’ll never go back to England – that’s it,’” Henderson writes. “My England career? Over. Life as it exists? Over. How could I go back? I’d let the whole nation down.”

Fortunately for Henderson, England would come back to win the last-16 shootout but what he did next was revealing. After a recovery session the following day, he stayed out alone to practise penalties, obsessively, to the point where the assistant manager, Steve Holland, had to yell at him to get inside.

There was almost a horrible sting. When Henderson woke the next day, he felt a tightness in his groin. He had injured himself taking penalties. Fortunately, the damage was not serious enough to rule him out of the quarter-final or semi-final.

The story shines a light on Henderson’s mentality. Fall short, dig deeper, be better prepared. It feels as if the 32-year-old has always been questioned. The other day, his Liverpool and England teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold called him “criminally underrated”. How does Henderson feel about that? “I’m not sure,” he replies. “I’ve been asked this throughout my career.”

Jordan Henderson (second from left) in training with England.
Jordan Henderson (second from left) in training with England on Thursday as they prepared for their last-16 game against Senegal. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/The FA/Getty Images

What Henderson does is he overcomes. After the first Champions League final defeat, he returned to the showpiece the following season and led his team to victory over Tottenham. After the near miss in the title race in 2018-19, he and Liverpool won the thing the next season. And now here he is, at a third World Cup and sixth major tournament for England seeking to go one better than at the last European Championship.

“I suppose you could see similarities [to Liverpool] in terms of getting so close and just failing at the last bit until we ended up winning,” Henderson says. “I don’t like to make comparisons with other teams, and especially club football, but I do feel like when you go through experiences together, especially good ones, but at the end you don’t get what you want, that can make you really stronger as a team.

“I keep my runners-up medals. Not many players get to cup finals so I’ll always respect the process of getting there. But when you just miss out on your dream then it can hurt a lot and that is what drives you to get better.”

First things first: Senegal. There is definitely a view in England that the team will beat the reigning African champions on Sunday and play a quarter-final against France, particularly as Henderson’s former Liverpool teammate Sadio Mané is out injured for Senegal.

It is absolutely not the view within the England camp. Henderson was a part of the squad at Euro 2016 when Iceland were supposed to be brushed aside in the last 16 en route to a quarter-final meeting with France. Everybody knows how that worked out. But the Iceland debacle is not why Henderson dismisses the threat of complacency. It is because of his laser-like focus, his battle-hardened realism.

“It won’t be a danger for us as a team,” Henderson says. “We can say they are missing Sadio Mané but they got into the knockout stages without him and they will be feeling confident. They are used to winning. We have just got to keep focused on what needs doing, not get too carried away, not look too far ahead.”

Henderson says that a sixth tournament appearance makes him feel “a little bit old”. Only three England players have previously done six on the spin – Sol Campbell, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. But Henderson’s energy, as much as anything else, was the standout feature of his performance against Wales in the final group tie when he won his 72nd cap.

Will he start against Senegal? Or will it be Mason Mount? Gareth Southgate’s decision will shape the dynamics of the midfield and the manager knows what he can expect from Henderson. Selflessness, experience and relentless hard work.

“I try to cover a lot of ground,” Henderson says. “High-intensity runs to put pressure on the ball and runs off the ball when we’re trying to get in behind or get on the ball. I try to inject a bit of intensity.”

One final thought. Would Henderson volunteer if it went to penalties? He does not miss a beat. “Always,” he replies.



Source link

Mission News Theme by Compete Themes.