EXCLUSIVE: Henderson hopes to repeat Champions League win for his dad

EXCLUSIVE: Jordan Henderson embracing his dad Brian after winning the Champions League is the stand-out image of his increasingly glorious career… now the Liverpool captain wants to win it again for the man who he owes all of his success to

  • Liverpool are hoping for a repeat of their 2019 Champions League success
  • Jordan Henderson’s embrace post-match with his dad is a legendary moment 
  • It is arguably the stand-out image of the Liverpool captain’s career to date 
  • His dad, Brian, will be in Paris hoping for a repeat when they play Real Madrid 

Jordan Henderson’s father Brian played off a golf handicap of seven before he realised his son had a talent for football.

By the time he had spent years ferrying the future Liverpool captain around the country in pursuit of a dream not everybody felt would ever come true, it had shot up to 17.

‘I do remember him taking me to the golf club when I was younger,’ Henderson told Sportsmail. ‘He was good at it. Then when he started travelling with me it deteriorated because he couldn’t play.

Jordan Henderson’s embrace with his father Brian after winning the Champions League final in 2019 is one of the stand-out images of the Liverpool captain’s increasingly glorious career

Henderson could become the second Englishman to captain two teams to European Cup glory

‘He was such a big part of my football at an early age. He took me to my first game then took me all over the country to play, so I owe him an awful lot.

‘It’s amazing that I can now try to repay him by being involved in big games like the one we are facing this weekend.’

One of the stand-out images of Henderson’s increasingly glorious career is that from the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid three years ago. He had just captained Liverpool to Champions League victory over Tottenham and Brian had recently recovered from cancer. The embrace they shared remains memorable.

‘It was an extraordinary moment and one I will never forget really,’ Henderson said. ‘Looking back it was incredible how it happened. I think about it when I see it on TV or I come across images of it.

‘It was the most emotional I have been on a football field. It was an amazing night and a real highlight of my career.

‘It was an amazing thing to share and I hope I can get to do it all over again at the weekend.’

Henderson is talking about Saturday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid in Paris. He will attempt to become only the second Liverpool captain to lift the trophy twice, the other being the late Emlyn Hughes.

But the 31-year-old is also talking about the path he took to reach the professional game as he helps launch a McDonald’s grassroots football campaign. The McDonald’s Fun Football programme will offer a million children a free route into the game over the next four years.

Henderson was picked up by the Sunderland academy at the age of eight, but also played for the Fulwell Juniors club in his native North East.

‘Family and friends and all those early experiences play a big part in how you approach things and your mentality as you grow up,’ Henderson said.

‘Looking back, what actually helped me was the fact I probably wasn’t the best player. I always thought there was somebody who was better.

‘I was talented but there were always other people who had an opinion that someone else was better or someone else would beat me for an award.

‘I was very good but I had a lot of knocks when I was younger and looking back I think that helped shape who I am and helped me deal with bad moments.

‘It gave me more fuel and fire in the belly to prove people wrong. It still does.’

Henderson has had to deal with knocks during his career after a slow start at Liverpool

Kenny Dalglish, as Henderson’s manager, helped the midfielder in his early days at Liverpool and was then later the man to present the Premier League trophy to the Reds captain

Henderson has lifted every club trophy there is as Liverpool captain but will not countenance being spoken of as a Liverpool great.

‘No,’ he said flatly. ‘You can’t think about the past. I know how quickly football can change.’

Much of Henderson’s pragmatic outlook does come from his upbringing. Equally, he knows what it feels like to struggle.

Former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers gave him the opportunity to move to Fulham in 2012, a reflection of the young midfielder’s failure to make an impact following his £16million arrival from Sunderland.

Henderson said ‘no’ without thinking and that looks now to have been a fine decision. He has never blamed Rodgers and believes he made him a better footballer.

But it was one of Anfield’s biggest stars who he leaned on for support. Sir Kenny Dalglish presented Henderson with the Premier League trophy in 2020 and that was fitting. 

Henderson’s father Brian will be in attendance hoping to see his son lift the Champions League trophy in a repeat of their 2-0 win over Tottenham when they play Real Madrid

‘Kenny has had a lot of respect for me from the moment I walked through the door,’ Henderson said. ‘I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for him.

‘He has always had confidence and belief in me as a player and a person. Even when things weren’t going well at the beginning, I felt he believed in me and knew there was something inside me that was different and that he could see there was a real player and person who could help this football club going forward.

‘I will never forget that. He always stood by my side and was there when others weren’t. He helped me a lot, especially in that first year.’

Dalglish, who signed Henderson during a short spell as manager following Roy Hodgson’s exit in 2011, used to sit with the midfielder in his office at Liverpool’s old Melwood training ground and tell him to be less hard on himself and calm down a little.

‘I have probably always struggled with that a bit to be honest,’ laughed Henderson. ‘I am quite intense when it comes to the football. I am very passionate and struggle to calm down, wind down and switch off.

‘I am always thinking about something, whether it’s what I can do better as a player or how I can help another player. That’s just the way I am.’

There was a spell during Sunday’s final Premier League game at home to Wolves when Henderson may have thought he was going to lift the Premier League trophy for a second time. That is enough to get anybody wound up.

Eventually, late Manchester City goals ensured that did not happen and now it is on to Paris, with all its reminders of Liverpool’s 1981 triumph against Real Madrid.

Henderson admits he struggles to remember the times and dates of Liverpool’s European successes.

Henderson and McDonalds Fun Football are calling on parents to kick start their child’s football journey by signing up to their largest grassroots football programme in the country

‘I can’t even remember the dates of my own career,’ he laughed.

But he knows what the Champions League, and indeed Real Madrid — who beat his team in Kyiv in 2018 — mean to the club.

‘It is part of what makes this club so special, along with the supporters,’ he said.

‘It’s incredible and it inspires us to want to be part of that history and keep on improving it and being as successful as possible for this club and team.’

His father will be in the Stade de France on Saturday night. In good health and free from shielding restrictions that made the Covid years tough for the Henderson family, he is doubtless expecting another emotional evening. His son is certainly ready.

‘Things are a lot better now and he can come and see the grandkids a lot more,’ smiled Henderson.

‘I see him at the games now and he will be there in the crowd hoping for a repeat of what happened in Madrid three years ago.

‘That would be something.’

Jordan Henderson and McDonald’s Fun Football is calling on parents to kick start their child’s football journey by signing up to their brand new and largest grassroots football programme in the country. Visit McDonalds.com/Football and follow @FunFootballUK on Twitter and Instagram to find your nearest session.

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