Jordan Henderson has developed into one of Europe’s best midfielders, and it’s fair to say he was never predicted to be this good.
His transfer to Liverpool in 2011 was long criticised and the Reds even tried to offload Henderson after just one year as they attempted to sign Clint Dempsey from Fulham in a swap deal.
He was considered an Anfield flop for many years before finally coming good and fulfilling his potential, and last season Henderson became the first Liverpool captain to ever lift the Premier League trophy.
He also got his hands on the European Cup a year earlier, and those who wrote Henderson off have been left with egg on their face.
But one man who always saw the potential in Henderson was his former Sunderland manager Roy Keane, who handed the midfielder his professional debut in a 5-0 thrashing by Chelsea in November 2008.
And Manchester United legend Keane, who left the Black Cats weeks after the Chelsea match, actually acted as a personal tutor to Henderson during training sessions.
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Sunderland’s former academy director Ged McNamee has revealed Keane used to call Henderson up to first-team training, and then partner him in midfielder when practice matches were played.
“He had the drive to be a player and the manager Roy Keane saw something in him that he liked,” McNamee told the BBC.
“After a reserve game that had gone badly, Roy asked Jordan and a few other lads if they thought they could play in the first team and when Jordan said ‘yes’ it showed him he had a bit of bottle about him.
“When he was called over to train he would quite often play in matches alongside Roy in central midfield. So as a 16 and 17-year-old he would have someone of that stature and quality talking to him, coaching him and telling him what he needed to do.
“The manager was on at him all the time but I think it drove him on to improve and want more.”
Despite Keane’s faith in Henderson, there were serious doubts amongst the Sunderland ranks over the current Liverpool skipper even becoming a footballer.
“When we were making decisions on players at 16 there were big question marks about him,” added McNamee.
“The medical department did some tests and the consensus was that he was going to grow but he was the last one through the door.
“We spoke to the family and it was quite an emotional meeting because there was a lot of pressure taken off their shoulders, but he flourished once his body settled.”
Published at Wed, 14 Oct 2020 11:17:23 +0000