Jordan Henderson's breakthrough into the first team at Sunderland came as an 18-year-old in the 2008/09 season but he had actually been linked with his local Premier League club since he was only seven-years-old. As he progressed through different age-groups he played as a striker and a right-winger before moving back into the midfield role which he played in when he helped Sunderland’s Under-18 team win successive titles. Henderson was loaned to Coventry City in the Championship for the second half of the 2008/09 season but a metatarsal injury restricted him to only ten appearances. When fully recovered he became a fixture at Sunderland after returning to the Stadium of Light. His consistent performances brought him successive awards as Sunderland’s "Young Player of the Year" in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons in which he was absent from only six Premier League matches. Henderson was called into the senior squad by Fabio Capello and making his full international debut on the same occasion as Andy Carroll, against France at Wembley in November 2010. He was linked with a move away from Wearside throughout that season but there were still eyebrows raised at the size of the fee when he arrived at Anfield for £16 million.
Henderson played in more first-team matches in 2011/12, 48 out of 51, than any other player at Liverpool. At times he seemed a little lost and not really sure what his role in the team was. He did score two goals during his debut season at Anfield, against Bolton in the second home match and Chelsea in the last were finishes of supreme accuracy and confidence. At the end of May Henderson was called up into England's Euro 2012 squad following an injury to Chelsea's Frank Lampard that had ruled him out of the tournament, adding vital experience to his career by coming on as twice as a substitute.
After that difficult first season, Henderson seemed rejuvenated after Brendan Rodgers took over at Liverpool and his game flourished, finally showing what he is capable of. He appeared in forty-four of the club's fifty-four competitive matches and got on the scoresheet more. He scored a crucial goal away to Udinese that ensured qualification to the knock-out stage of the Europa League; and he followed that up by netting five times in Premier League matches in the second half of the season, including a brace at Newcastle. At international
level, he was named the England Under-21 Player of the Year.
The midfielder again made great progress in 2013/14. He would have almost certainly appeared in every one of the club's forty-three competitive matches during the season had he not received a red card in the closing minutes of the crucial Anfield meeting with Manchester City in the middle of April. His energy was certainly missed during the following three matches, from which only four points were taken out of nine. Having only scored four Premier League goals during his Sunderland days, he matched that in a single season by scoring home and away against Tottenham and twice when Swansea City came to Anfield towards the end of February.
Having not played for the senior international team since England's last match of Euro 2012, Henderson made substitute appearances for his country against Chile and Germany towards the end of 2013. It was no surprise that he was named in Roy Hodgson's squad for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil. Henderson started England's first group match against Italy but was replaced by Jack Wilshere with about twenty minutes to go. He started again against Uruguay four days later but was again substituted, this time by Rickie Lambert, shortly after Luis Suarez had scored what turned out to be the winning goal of the match. Henderson was an unused substitute in the final group match against Costa Rica.
The then club's vice-captain missed only one Premier League match in 2014/15 and also appeared in seventeen cup-ties to take his total of first-team appearances for Liverpool close to the two hundred mark
. He also scored more club goals than in any previous season, his seven including eye-catching strikes in successive home matches early in March against Manchester City and Burnley. In Steven Gerrard's absence, he coolly converted a penalty-kick at Arsenal in April. Still only twenty-four years old when the season ended the club wisely extended Henderson's contract to take him close to his thirtieth birthday in 2020. On 10 July 2015, Liverpool confirmed Jordan Henderson as the club's new captain after Steven Gerrard's departure, but his first season with the armband was a disappointing one. A metatarsal fracture kept him out for three months and after returning to action at the end of November, there was an upturn in team results. However in early April, he tore knee ligaments and although he returned to fitness in time for the Europa League final, he had to settle for a place on the bench.
Henderson retained the captaincy for 2016/17 and with the exception of being rested for a game at Sunderland during the busy Christmas period, was an ever-present in the side until he picked up a foot injury in February which ended up keeping him out for the rest of the season. The highlight of his playing time during the season was a spectacular strike from 25 yards at Chelsea in a 2-1 win. He enjoyed another productive season in 2017/18, appearing 41 times in all competitions and captaining Liverpool to the Champions League final. He was also a key player in the England side that reached the World Cup semi-final, although that meant he would return to training only six days before the new domestic campaign began.
During 2018/19 Henderson was not an automatic starter and Fabinho's growth in the holding midfielder role put some scrutiny on him, but Klopp has always had a lot of time for him as his previous managers at Liverpool, in fact. Fabinho's strength allowed Henderson to be utilised as a more attacking midfielder, his preferred role. Klopp's faith in Henderson was shown when he offered his captain a new five-year deal in September. Henderson who had always lived in Gerrard's shadow as club captain followed in the footsteps of his predecessor and only a chosen few at Liverpool, by lifting the European Cup in Madrid on 1 June 2019. Henderson went of course one better than Gerrard when he lifted the Premier League title at the end of the extraordinary 2019/20 season. His influence on this majestic side was fully recognised when he was voted Football Writers' Footballer of the Year.
Gerrard was amongst the first to hail his successor: "It's no surprise to me how he’s handling himself on and off the pitch,” he told BT Sport. "Obviously, I played with him for numerous years with Liverpool and England. A very fit, athletic boy who’s selfless in his approach on the pitch, puts everyone else above himself. When you play alongside him you appreciate the job he does for the team and I think over the years he’s been developing parts of his game. His passing range now is fantastic. He’s always there for the team. I’ve watched him grow as a human being with interest – he’s always been a great lad and a great team-mate. It's no surprise now that people are starting to recognise what a man he is, both on and off the pitch. Every bit of praise he gets he deserves it because it'd true, and I can guarantee that because I've been alongside him.”
Henderson now adorns murals around the city and is an integral part of the club's folklore. Klopp hailed his contribution throughout the season, claiming: "If anybody who is with us still doesn’t see the quality of Jordan Henderson, then I cannot help them. Is Hendo the perfect football player? No. Do I know anybody who is? No. But is he unbelievably important to us? Yes." Klopp in a taped message at the end of the season made Henderson very emotional when he congratulated him on his achievement to be voted Footballer of the Year. Such was the impact of Klopp's testimony that is deserves to be quoted in its entirety. "Hi my friend. One of the big questions in football is ‘what makes a proper player? And what is more important – is it talent, or is it attitude?’ I think the easy answer is ‘without talent you are nothing, and without attitude you will stay a talent forever’. So you are the perfect example that a mix makes the difference. Who would have thought that a young fella from Sunderland to Liverpool with big dream would be one day the best player of the Premier League? Maybe you dreamt of it, I’m not sure you thought it would happen. I know you are confident enough to have big dreams. But now is the moment where everybody saw it. Everybody saw what a great player you are. Everybody saw what a great personality you are and what a great character you are. I know the human being behind the player, you deserve an award for that as well. Many congratulations, well deserved. Outstanding achievement. What a year you had, what a career so far you’ve had and the best news is there’s still a lot to come. I wish you a wonderful day, enjoy the moment because you can enjoy it because you don’t have to play at Newcastle! Enjoy the moment and, again, best player of the Premier League – wow!
2020/21 was a difficult season all around with the Covid 19 pandemic meaning games being played behind closed doors. Henderson's versatility was displayed from the beginning of January when he dropped back to central defence following an injury to Joel Matip. However on 28th February 2021 he limped out of the Merseyside derby at Anfield and went on to have groin surgery which ruled him out for the rest of the season. He did make England's European Championship squad and came on as a substitute in England's last five games. In the final however, after joining the action with fifteen minutes of normal time remaining, he was inexplicably substituted in the last minute of extra time when his experience would have been invaluable in a penalty shoot out.