SINGAPORE — Should Liverpool be crowned English Premier League (EPL) champions as expected this year, there will be no shortage of deserving players in the current squad, who have put their heart and soul into ending the Merseyside club’s 30-year wait for a top-division league title.
Reds fans could wax lyrical about the fearsome forward trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. They could single out the versatile fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, or praise the rock solid defence marshalled by the indomitable Virgil van Dijk.
But former Liverpool captain Jamie Redknapp has no doubts which player is the most deserving of all – current skipper Jordan Henderson.
The 46-year-old, who played for the Reds in central midfield from 1991 to 2002, was in Singapore on Thursday (6 February) for a meet-and-greet session with fans, as part of a promotional campaign by chocolate maker Cadbury which offers a grand prize of watching a live EPL game in England.
He told Yahoo News Singapore that it is never easy to be the captain of a club with such an illustrious history.
“I remember being the captain of Liverpool, and immediately I felt the pressure of following the footsteps of all those great midfield players that they've had, as well as the expectation to be the next captain to lift more trophies,” he said.
“Jordan has had to follow (former Liverpool captain) Steven Gerrard and everyone was like, well, he's not a top player like Gerrard. But this season, he's well and truly become his own man, and he's doing a great job leading the team – working hard, setting an example for his teammates to follow every single day.
“A manager can’t be everywhere, so he needs senior players in the dressing room to set the right examples during training. If you look at Liverpool, that’s exactly what they’ve got. All great teams have it.”
Special feeling in the club right now
Redknapp’s time at Liverpool was a transitional period when the club went through several managers – Graeme Souness, Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier – who fell short of building a league-winning Reds team.
And he admits that he was initially unsure that current boss Jurgen Klopp had what it takes to guide the club to their first EPL title.
“When he first arrived, he was posturing to the fans from the sidelines and cuddling the players after the matches, and I was thinking, ‘What was he on about?’ “ he said.
“But gradually, you start to understand that he was trying to get everybody united behind the team. He wanted to turn any negativity amid the club into a positive force – turning doubters into believers, as he once said.
“He’s done an amazing job since – getting players with the right attitude and hunger, planning with attention to the tiniest details, already having youth players ready to step up.
“There’s really a special feeling among the club right now, it’s taken 30 years for that to happen but I’m sure that this will not be a one-off – they certainly look capable of dominating for the next few years.”
Punditry vs managerial career
Following his retirement from football in 2005, Redknapp has become one of the most well-known and respected media pundits in England, and can frequently been seen providing match analysis to top EPL matches.
Yet, he hopes that the finest footballing brains will not be lost to punditry, and instead be put into good use as football managers – just like his dad Harry, who had a long managerial career in the EPL, and cousin Frank Lampard, the current Chelsea boss.
“My dad always says to me, ‘Why don't you manage?’ And I go, ‘Well, you know, I'm going to play golf in America’ or ‘I'm gonna doing a TV show in England.’ “ he said with a smile.
“It’s the pressure of being a manager – you know you could be sacked in six months or even less. But I’m glad that ex-players like Gerrard and Frank are doing it because they can give back so much. They know the game and they can help the young players develop, so I think it's a really good thing.”
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