Given that the World Cup is in full swing and there isn’t a lot in the way of Liverpool Football Club news this week, I decided to do something a little bit different with this week’s column. Rather than just pluck a topic out of thin air to write about in-depth, I decided to have a look at a few different points of interesting. If it works, I might try it again next week, so your feedback on the issue is very much appreciated. The three topics I’ve chosen to write about today are Jordan Henderson, England fans and the British press. All of them, in their own way, are topics that are filled with nuance and interesting discussion points. The key word in there, as far as I’m concerned, is ‘nuance’. I always try my hardest with everything I write to ensure that there are layers of nuance involved. From a Liverpool point of view, for example, I don’t think it’s fair to simply dismiss Loris Karius as ‘rubbish’ without any conversation about the things he did to get the Reds to the Champions League final in the first place.
If you want to win things you cant do it with the likes of Henderson, Lovren and Karius in the first 11. Its clear to my eyes they have mistakes in them. People keep on saying Klopp needs to win things next season but the players you support are Hendo and Lovren.
— Guinea fc (@laitkorians) June 25, 2018
I’ve also been alarmed at how many people are willing to be so dismissive of the concussion that medical experts have said that Karius suffered during the Champions League final. Apparently, the fact that he’s conceded goals in the past when he should’ve done better is something that he’s the only ‘keeper to have done and means that the concussion was invented by doctors in the pay of John Henry. That’s the sort of non-nuanced thinking that I simply don’t have time for. A conversation about how the final might affect him going forward and how it might mean that his teammates Don’t trust him is entirely fair. Suggesting a genuinely serious medical issue that is causing sportsmen and woman all sorts of problems was fabricated in order to stop the club from having to spend money is an outrageous accusation and the stuff of truly bizarre conspiracy theorists. Therefore I’ll do my best to cover these topics with a degree of nuance and balance, though I must confess that I have strong feelings about all three of them and as this is my article I won’t be working that hard to stop them from shining through…
Jordan Henderson – The Most Divisive Player In Years
Lucas Leiva was an incredibly divisive player for Liverpool. The fact that he’s now playing well for Lazio and receiving countless plaudits might trick you into thinking that he was always much-loved at Anfield, but that simply wouldn’t be true. A large section of the fanbase simply didn’t like him, regardless of what he did. He was seen by many to be Rafa Benitez’s lieutenant on the field and the people that hated the Spaniard took it out on his Brazilian defensive midfielder. There are parallels to be draw around the treatment of Leiva and the the manner in which some react to Jordan Henderson nowadays. One of the big ones comes in the form of many people simply not understanding the job that the two players were asked to do.
Yer Swedish bloke has given away a needless freekick in a dangerous area to lose his team the game in the last minute. Better know as a Lucas Leiva
— Paul Forte (@paulJforte) June 23, 2018
Many look at the role of a DM and see them as someone who is there to win tackles and that’s it. It’s borne from years of watching the likes of Dietmar Hamann and Javier Mascherano. Yet Lucas under Benitez and Henderson under Jürgen Klopp had different jobs. The current club captain in particular isn’t there just to win tackles in the same way that N’Golo Kante is for Chelsea. His job is to steal the ball and start counter-attacks were possible, which requires him to tackle whilst moving forward rather than simply slide in and win it no matter what. The result, of course, is that he won’t always win the ball as the opposition advances. That, in the eyes of some, means that he’s ‘rubbish’.
It’s almost impossible to have a sensible conversation about Jordan Henderson. In the eyes of some he is the worst Liverpool captain ever to take to the field. That leads others, and I put myself in this camp, to be overly effusive in our praise of him in order to counteract the opinions that are so frustrating in their idiocy. The former Sunderland man is not the best midfielder in the world. Anyone who says that he is would be lying. Equally, he’s not an absolute disaster of a player and those that suggest as much are equal in their non-truth telling. He’s a very good player who has a lot of excellent aspects to his game. He’s also someone to whom certain things don’t come naturally, with goal-scoring being one of them. He has the ability to hit a worldie – see Chelsea two years ago – but won’t add loads of goals from the midfield.
Jordan Henderson ran 10km vs Panama, 1km more than any other player on the pitch, in 32-degree heat.
He completed 91% of his 72 passes attempted, won all four of his aerial duels & wasn’t dispossessed once.
But the foolish still criticise the fella 🤔🤭
— Paul J Glover (@inabigbigway) June 25, 2018
What he does offer is the willingness to cover others at his own expense. His positional awareness is excellent, as evidenced by him dropping in to cover one of the full-backs if they go for a wander upfield. He’s also brilliant at rotating possession, which is a deliberate tactic to move the ball around and get the opposition to shift from side to side in order to create spaces. There are players that are better than him at various things, but he’s still a player that adds a huge amount to both the Liverpool and England set-up and there aren’t a huge amount of players who are better than him at everything that he’s good at. Those that think the manager has bought Fabinho and Naby Keita to replace the club captain are destined to be disappointed this season. He’s not the best player in the world, but he’s very, very good.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter or has read my pieces in the past will know that I’m not a great lover of the England national team. There are numerous reasons for my point of view, not least of which is that I struggle to understand how people so easily put their personal loyalties to one side in order get behind the team. Whilst I accept that he’s a world-class goalscorer, for example, I think Harry Kane is a rather poor footballer and comes across as a bit of a douchebag. It’s all about him rather than the team, which I think is an appalling mindset to have in a team sport. I find it distasteful, therefore, to sit there and cheer him on just because he’s wearing an England top. Yet nothing puts me off supporting England more than the a-typical fan that follows the team around. No, I’m not sure talking about the genuinely dreadful ‘England Band’.
Here’s the English letting the side down again as usual, singing “Ten German Bombers” right in front of hundreds of world cup fans from all over the world at Shanghai’s busiest and most international bar area – Found 158. You lot are an utter embarrassment #livinginthepast pic.twitter.com/Lhsd0QJWId
— Cameron Wilson 韦侃仑 (@CameronWEF) June 25, 2018
You know the ones I’m talking about. The types that sing ‘Ten German Bombers’ or reply to tweets from German supporters saying ‘Two World Wars and one World Cup’. It’s the jingoistic side of Brits brought to life, the reason such a large chunk of people decided we’d somehow be better off outside the European Union than in it. It’s everything that I don’t like in life, so it makes me feel uncomfortable to listen to them sing their tasteless songs and jeer opposition supporters. They’re the sort of people that think Robbie Savage is good ‘bantz’, that Piers Morgan speaks for the common man or that think Alan Sugar’s tweet about the Senegal team was hilarious. I’m aware that it’s not reflective of everyone that supports England, but it’s enough of them to mean that I’m decidedly unbothered about how the side does in the tournament.
The British Press
We all know the major culprits in the world of the British press as vultures and liars. Liverpool supporters have been saying for nearly thirty years not to believe a word printed on the pages of the S*n, whilst the Daily Mail is essentially Mein Kampf re-written for the modern world. Yet I’m also aware that countless people in the media do an excellent job on a daily basis, especially in the world of sport. Jonathon Northcroft is an excellent writer, for example. Melissa Reddy’s long-form pieces continue to be must-reads. Sachin Nakrani is a top follow on Twitter not only for his own work but also for the praise he’s more than willing to dish out to fellow scribes, thereby consistently pointing me in the direction of decent pieces I might otherwise have missed. I’ve been disappointed, therefore, to see the manner in which the press circled the wagons in the wake of the recent ‘leaking’ of the England team, if for no other reason than the team wasn’t ‘leaked’, it was stolen.
Panama coach has just confirmed his starting eleven v England. In a press conference. Is it ok for me to report this?
— Geoff Shreeves (@GeoffShreeves) June 23, 2018
To be clear, the journalists weren’t invited into a team meeting with the side written on a chalk board that someone had forgotten to take away. They didn’t find the team sheet left on a bus as they were travelling around Russia. A photographer used a telephoto lens to zoom in on a piece of paper at the opposite end of the training ground. This is the equivalent of someone going on a tour of Coca-Cola Enterprises, stealing the secret recipe for Coke and then being annoyed that Coke’s told them they’re out of order. That countless journalists are saying that it’s dangerous to ask them to be cheerleaders for England is all well and good, but they might want to mention it to the likes of Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer every time they present a show or commentate on a three lions game. They might also want to bear it in mind if England get knocked out early and they write countless pieces asking why the team can’t handle the pressure of major tournaments. Perhaps it’s because the nation’s press spends its time giving away line-ups and writing racist headlines about one of its best players. Just a thought.