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Jordan Henderson has gone from ‘useless’ to priceless in the space of a few weeks

The Liverpool captain is often ridiculed but his importance to England at the World Cup has become very clear

‘Jordan Henderson only passes sideways or backwards.’

‘Jordan Henderson is a very s*** man’s Steven Gerrard.’

There’s no denying Jordan Henderson is one of the most divisive England players of his generation.


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Hero or zero?

Getty - Contributor
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Hero or zero?

Perhaps he is emblematic of the current state of the English midfield; more hustle and bustle than craft and guile.

But ever since the Three Lions kicked off their World Cup campaign nearly two weeks ago against Tunisia, Henderson’s important to his country has become clearer and clearer.

Harry Kane is officially England’s captain, but Henderson is their leader.

Leader and captain

Getty Images - Getty
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Leader and captain

In the 6-1 drubbing of Panama Henderson berated his team-mates for letting their standards slip in the second half.

The Liverpool captain is also the leading voice on their intuitive set-piece routines, playing a decisive creative role in England’s fourth goal against the Panamanians.

And, despite a near-fatal penalty miss in the shootout against Colombia, he was instrumental again as England beat Sweden to book their first semi-final spot since 1990.

A vital block

Reuters
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A vital block

He was vital at both ends, picking out Raheem Sterling with a wonderful pass in the first half and producing a goal-saving block in the second.

Henderson has always been a vocal presence but in Russia he’s also let his football do the talking too.

At the heart of the discussions

Getty Images - Getty
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At the heart of the discussions

Despite the Panama win having the feel of a training routine for large parts, he was the only player to run more than 10km whilst he completed 91% of his passes and wasn’t dispossessed once.

Henderson hasn’t just kept it simple either, threading eye-of-the-needle through balls repeatedly against Tunisia whilst simultaneously breaking up play when England were caught out.

This calming and assured influence was sorely missed during England’s defeat to Belgium two weeks ago.

Warming the bench against Belgium

AFP
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Warming the bench against Belgium

Eric Dier – a man with the turning circle of a large HGV lorry – deputised for Henderson and England were undeniably poorer for it.

Dier, you feel, would be more useful operating as part of the back three rather than as the sole midfield pivot which relies on a creative mind.

England huffed and puffed but were ultimately bossed by the irrepressible Mousa Dembele and, er, Marouane Fellaini.

Dier was poor against Belgium

Reuters
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Dier was poor against Belgium

There is certainly an argument that reputation grows in absence, but Dier’s limitations highlight why Henderson has started every important clash in Russia so far.

Three weeks ago many England fans didn’t even want Henderson in the squad.

Now he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet as England look to bring football home.