Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson celebrates with manager Jurgen Klopp after the Premier League win over Wolves at Anfield. Photo: PA
Jordan Henderson was presented with an almost impossible task when he succeeded Steven Gerrard as Liverpool captain in the summer of 2015 and it is to his enduring credit that he is now assured of a place among the club’s all-time greats.
I remember the cynicism when Henderson took over from the legendary Stevie G and I was among those who doubted whether he was up to the task of leading one of the great clubs in world football on and off the field.
Henderson always gave everything to the Liverpool cause, but he was lacking quality in certain areas of his game in his formative days at the club and the idea that he could successfully succeed an Anfield icon who did so much for the club was too much for some to comprehend.
It didn’t start well and in his first few months as captain, he was desperate to take every penalty, every corner and free-kick in what appeared to be an attempt to prove he could be a leader.
Liverpool fans were not buying into ‘Captain Hendo’, with many suggesting he did not justify his place in a team that struggled in his first few months as skipper and the exit of the manager who appointed him as captain suggesting that this experience had gone wrong.
Jurgen Klopp didn’t always pick Henderson when he came in as manager and I remember the calls for Virgil van Dijk to be named as Liverpool captain when he arrived at the club in January 2018 and had such a big impact on the team.
Yet Henderson has grown into the role and – like so many members of a Liverpool team that has reached 2020 on course to end the club’s 30-year wait for a domestic league title – his improvement under Klopp has been so impressive.
Great managers don’t just get results when it matters most, they also work with players under their watch to give them an extra edge. When you look across the Liverpool team, we see that with every squad member.
Klopp and his coaching staff have helped to turn Trent Alexander-Arnold into one of the best full-backs in world football and even though he has improvements to make in the defensive side of his game, he is now a fantastic asset who must be worth a fortune in the transfer market.
Fabinho is another player who has taken huge strides forward at Liverpool. He struggled to adapt to the English game in his opening few months at the club but has gone on to become a key man in the midfield.
The same can be said of the dynamic front three, with Sadio Mane now one of the best forward players in Europe and Mohamed Salah transformed into a world star since he started working with Klopp.
Henderson is another who has taken his career to levels we probably didn’t expect in the last couple of years and whatever happens from this point forward, the images of him lifting the Champions League trophy, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup are part of the club’s folklore.
If he can get his hands on the Premier League trophy at Anfield in May, his legacy as one of the great Liverpool captains of all-time will be secured.
And yet I look at this team of champions and I think the reason why they are in a league of their own right now is that they have leaders in so many areas.
Henderson may have the armband, but I look at Alisson Becker in goal and he is a giant of a man who inspires confidence in all those around him.
Then you look at Van Dijk leading the defensive line with an authority that means few would mess with him, with James Milner another leader when he is in the team.
You look at Manchester United and Arsenal, to give two high-profile examples, and they are lacking real leaders.
Maybe that has been a problem for Manchester City as well this season, following the exit of Vincent Kompany.
Liverpool are fortunate to have a team loaded with top-quality players who are working under a great manager and taking responsibility for wearing a shirt that means so much to so many people around the world.
It’s a potent combination that is proving to be too much for their rivals to deal with.
To have dropped just two Premier League points heading into the second half of the season is a ridiculous statistic that should give them a platform to go on and win the title.
That will give Henderson a chance to give another rendition of what has become a familiar trophy celebration, with his little jig in front of his team-mates following by his hoisting of the silverware, a joyous scene that has been showcased three times in the last seven months.
I’m expecting to see a lot more celebrations for the Liverpool captain in 2020.