Jordan Henderson, this is your life
Charting the evolution of Liverpool's captain from a dodgy Bebo page and a Soccer Am Skill Skool defeat to lifting the Champions League
Humble beginnings: 'sum lad, mi gawjuz girl, n me'
Now many of you might look at the vacant, dead-eyed stare of sum lad, if that is his real name, and mock him. You might think to yourself, wow, that guy had no idea he was standing next to a person standing next to another person who might be a future Champions League winning captain.
I think, though, if you look at his expression, as in look at it really closely, and scrutinise it, and analyse it, you come to an altogether different conclusion. The way his mouth curves ever so slightly downward into a frown at its outermost tips; the way the entire rest of his face is completely blank, blanker than a sheet of A4, blanker than it is usually physically possibly for a human facial expression to ever be. The way he fixes the camera with a hundred thousand yard stare.
I think sum lad knew exactly who he was in the presence of.
And I'm not talking about gawjuz girl. I'm talking about me. As in you. As in him. As in Jordan Henderson.
Whose elongated road towards greatness was just getting started with that outrageous white collar/blue shirt combo.
Slowly but surely: ABIDAGIBBIDA IGIDAGIBBIDA, SHY FX
ABIDAGIBBIDA IGIDAGIBIDDA, T-POWER.
Then came Skill Skool, Jordan, presented by Soccer AM's own superstar in the making, Rocket Long.
It was 2008, and it could have ended like any other day in the famed Sunderland Academy at that point: with lots of pie, mash, gravy and banter. Oh so much banter. Heaps of banter. Dollops of banter. And the very worst kind of banter at that: young academy footballer banter. Literally banter almost exclusively consisting of punching each other to see who gets a dead arm first and laughing hysterically when you nutmeg someone and getting your arse out for no reason.
And yet, you learned a valuable lesson that day Jordan. You learned how to lose gracefully. You learned how take it on the chin, pick yourself up and go again.
You were up against Nathan Luscombe, your rival and a worthy adversary.
You threw everything at him: round-the-worlds, more round-the-worlds, a John Cena 'you can't see me' handwave, and finally, the big finish, the pièce de résistance: getting your arse out (told you) with 'Wow!' written in marker on your tight, white pants.
Unfortunately it wasn't to be, and Luscombe came away victorious by decision. To this day Rocket isn't sure if he made the right call. Your fellow academy banter merchants jumped all over him as soon as his arm was raised in triumph. You did as well, eventually, but you took a second. To soak in the defeat. To taste it on your tongue and your lips like seawater. Like salt.
He made 26 appearances for Hartlepool and plays amateur level now. You're a European champion.
You were probably the only person in the room that realised that at the time. Even so, Jordan. You did still get your arse out during a football freestyle battle. There was a way to go yet. There was a fucking long old journey ahead of you, son.
Like a young, semi-mulleted, Mackem Anakin Skywalker, you had much to learn before you could truly harness your power.
Learning how to play, the Sunderland way
Your full debut came against Blackburn in the League Cup. Here you are getting into a then 84-year-old Tugay and one of the Olsen twins.
It's either Mary-Kate or Martin, anyway. I'm pretty sure.
Here you are learning how to run and still, apparently, finding it quite a difficult concept.
Only kidding, you are very good at running. You are the single best person at running Liverpool Football Club has ever seen.
Apart from James Milner.
And here you are, in the storied Sunderland number 10 shirt, a shirt Wahbi Khazri would wear with little to no pride at all years later, doing something we would see over and over again throughout your career: a big old fucking side-foot down the line because there isn't much else on.
You were growing into your true self at an alarming rate.
Here you are with the first senior centre midfielder, captain and idol you had, before, you know, you realised there were players like Steven Gerrard out there instead.
And that you were always more of a Gerrard than a Cattermole.
And here you are with another club legend, Titus Bramble, quite clearly ignoring his innocuous pre-match patter so you can concentrate on the job at hand rather than discuss last night's episode of 24.
This was a good sign Jordan. This showed you were serious about winning. This showed you were serious about not playing with the likes of Titus Bramble much longer.
In the elite company of idols. But also Charlie Adam, Alexander Doni and Stewart Downing
What a time to join one of the biggest and most historic football clubs in the world: under the helm of an icon, Kenny Dalglish, at the same time as Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam.
If the original plan was to have all three of you in the same Galacticos-style midfield, it would manifest only as a pipedream. Adam was there for a single season, Downing was only there for two.
But you are still there, aren't you Jordan? You're still around. How did that turn out for you?
I mean look at that. The concentration on your face. The upright posture. The unflinching eye-contact with the journalists. It was clear even from this you that you would be the one still there, eight years later, lifting their sixth European Cup. It was fucking obvious.
I mean look at Charlie Adam, pulling a face like he's watched a poor old lady absolutely stack it down the M&S escalator.
I mean look at Stewart Downing, pulling a face like he's still imagining his other life as Ibiza's very own 'DJ Downing'.
I mean, look at this face. Tell me this isn't the face of a champion. Of a man that knows he is a champion.
I'm sorry, but a series of small roadbumps can't stop a runaway freight train
It wasn't easy at Liverpool though. It wasn't without difficulties. You were integral to the side that narrowly missed out on a first league title since 1990 in the 13/14 season, starting 36 games in the Premier League.
More games than Luis Suarez. More than Gerrard, even.
Not as many as Martin Skrtel and Simon Mignolet, granted. But still. Integral. Daniel Agger left at the end of that campaign and Brendan Rodgers - quite rightly - appointed you as a vice-captain.
He even tried to give you a snog.
You respectfully declined.
The next season was difficult. Liverpool finished sixth without Suarez and despite finishing as top goalscorer in the league with 9 goals, Gerrard was quite clearly fading. His time was up. And your time was just beginning.
Even if you did have to sheepishly cloak the armband over his bicep every time he came on as a substitute.
And then he was gone, and it was just you.
And you were blamed.
And you were criticised.
And the team wasn't good enough.
And, apparently, you weren't good enough either.
And compilations of you passing the ball straight out of play appeared on YouTube.
You captained Liverpool in the League Cup final and were unlucky to lose on penalties.
You captained Liverpool in the Europa League final. You went in at half-time 1-0 up. You collapsed in the second period, and Sevilla were champions.
Another runners-up medal, some more blame.
But hey, you and that weird little moustache you were flexing at the time were on the cover of Fifa that season. So at least there was that.
The GOAT and Lionel Messi, Lionel Messi and the GOAT. These heartbreaking defeats were only obstacles. There was more to come.
Although you would have to go through it all one last time first. I'll let the images do the talking for that one.
Sum lad was right all along, this man is a fucking CHAMPION
It's difficult to say whether it was the loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League final or the Skill Skool points decision defeat to Nathan Luscombe that really, truly, spurred you on to become a winner. I suppose nobody other than yourself will ever know.
Even this season, ending on the high that it has, gave you another vertical cliff face of pain to ascend. History repeated itself and once again, just like four seasons ago, Man City pipped you to the league title. Back then it was two points, this time it was just one.
People weren't surprised though, they thought the bottlers had simply bottled it all over again.
But, whatever they said, whatever they used to say, they can't say anymore. You did it, Hendo. The fourth Liverpool captain to win the European Cup, the first English captain to do it since Frank Lampard 2012. And just look what it means.
Go on mate, give your Dad a hug. Make it a long one. The rest of us will sit here trying really, really hard not to cry.
I don't know if this is how it ends for you, Jordan Brian (Brian!) Henderson a.k.a Hendo a.k.a Captain Leader Legend. I imagine not. Given where we started, and where we are now, with you on a jet with your feet up on the fucking European Cup, possibly wishing you weren't sat with Adam Lallana as he makes a late application for this year's Love Island, it seems impossible that this is where the journey ends.
It can't end here. Surely.
I don't know if you still have that gawjuz girl by your side, presumably there is a different, but as equally gawjuz, woman in your life now. I am sure she is very proud. Please track down sum lad and get a photograph with her, and him, and look at it. And see how far you've come.
Let's update that Bebo page shall we?
had v good game v spurs, ran loadz
Me, Myself and I
my name is jordan henderson i play for liverpool im number 14 and captain. i wanna win the premier league for liverpool before im 30.
I was the fourth liverpool captain to win the champions league and the first since steven gerrard in 2005.
played for liverpool since
favourite liverpool player
not charlie adam or stewart downing
favourite other player
virgil van dijk
winning a trophy with liverpool.