Why Jordan Henderson was the driving force behind #playerstogether

Jordan Henderson is more comfortable with criticism for a performance than praise for his charity work… but after driving #playerstogether, he has shown once again why he’s Liverpool’s captain fantastic

  • Jordan Henderson organised the Premier League’s #playerstogether initiative
  • The Liverpool skipper led his side to Champions League glory last season
  • Henderson has also proved his worth off the pitch by helping a local foodbank
  • The midfielder is a private person who also looks out for his team-mates
  • He understands the importance of the NHS and was determined to help out

A post on Instagram, not long after the synchronised announcements, captured the mood for the esteem in which Jordan Henderson is currently held.

‘Never thought I would say this,’ one Liverpool fan wrote, ‘but lifting the European Cup might just be the second best thing he has done for this club.’

Public perception changed for Henderson one sultry night last June, when he danced a celebratory jig with that famous trophy and then wept on the shoulder of his father, Brian. For a wider audience, it was the 29-year-old’s coming of age.

Jordan Henderson lifts the Champions League trophy after captaining Liverpool to glory

The midfielder hugs his dad, Brian, after the final victory over Tottenham in Madrid last year

People felt a connection to Henderson back then, understanding the deep bond between a father and a son in a moment of huge emotion. The connection will have strengthened last Wednesday evening, when the #playerstogether movement was launched.

Henderson was a driving force in getting this campaign off the ground. So many other players have been involved (Harry Maguire, Seamus Coleman, Troy Deeney, Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane, Ryan Bertrand to name a few) and their influence should not – and will not – be overlooked.

Deeney, for instance, is a passionate speaker and thoughtful. Everton pair Coleman and Leighton Baines, United striker Rashford and Southampton defender Bertrand are at the crux of community work at their respective clubs and did not need to be pushed when a question was asked.

#playerstogether aims to ‘distribute money to where it is needed most’ to fight coronavirus

Henderson was the driving force behind the #playerstogether initiative after weeks of talks 

As much as he will be uncomfortable with the spotlight, however, the catalyst for it all was Liverpool’s No 14. His name is front and centre in all reports. There is a reason.

It began two weeks ago – long before Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, opportunistically and unnecessarily put Premier League footballers in the spotlight – with Henderson thinking about the implications of the coronavirus pandemic and wondering how he could help.

He had already been involved in helping local charities. On the first weekend in March without domestic football, Fans Supporting Foodbanks – the collaboration between Liverpool and Everton supporters to combat food shortages – received a £40,000 donation from Liverpool’s squad and the Liverpool Foundation.

With matches cancelled for an indefinite period, Fans Supporting Foodbanks – a presence outside Anfield and Goodison before every home game – faced the prospect of an uncertain future but the gesture from Liverpool made a huge difference. Henderson was behind it.

Henderson poses with a child at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool back in 2016

The #playerstogether initiative was rather more complex to set up, given the amount of people involved, but England’s vice-captain spoke to someone from each of the 19 other Premier League clubs, along with the PFA, to see what they could do to help the NHS and other charities. 

When the news first emerged last Friday, Henderson was eager to distance himself in terms of being the central figure – he was actually frustrated that his name was mentioned at all – but subsequent comments from Simon Francis, the Bournemouth captain, Ben Mee of Burnley and Wolves skipper Conor Coady illustrated what he had done.

‘Jordan was brilliant in terms of setting up and taking the initiative and moving forward with it and then getting in contact with everybody,’ Coady confirmed. ‘As soon as he did, everybody was on board straight away. So it’s a brilliant, brilliant thing that he’s set up and something that’ll affect a lot of people.

He might be one of the highest-profile footballers in the country but Henderson comes from a working-class background; he knows the importance of protecting jobs and the work that the health service does in all their facilities each and every day.

That there was a flood of posts on Instagram and Twitter on Wednesday night, all publishing the statement simultaneously, gives you an idea of the respect he commands. He carries authority in two of the biggest dressing rooms in the land and his words have weight.

Most importantly of all, he wants to see others thrive: Joe Gomez and Danny Ings, for instance, will tell how he made them feel during the bleak times they were battling injury, with constant words of encouragement. If ever they needed anything, Henderson made sure it happened for them.

Health secretary Matt Hancock had called on Premier League stars to make a contribution

Henderson, pictured after scoring against Wolves in January, led the footballers’ response

‘He has the perfect balance of being a dominant captain while being one of the most approachable guys in the dressing room,’ Gomez told Sportsmail in July 2018. ‘His thought to detail for all our emotions goes way past what I think most would realise.’

The #playerstogether project means everyone will now realise what he is like. Henderson, for his part, would be more comfortable reading a critique of a bad performance on the pitch than anything that shines a light on the work he does away from the game.

He is a private person, protective of his young family and committed to getting the most out of his career. He will have seen his name put at the forefront of #playerstogether and, no doubt, will have felt deeply uncomfortable. He shouldn’t be.

At a time when bad news is wall to wall, when health is in jeopardy and the economy is in peril, good news should be celebrated. Henderson and his colleagues deserve that recognition.


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