When Jordan Henderson captained Liverpool to Champions League glory in Madrid on Saturday night, he became the first North-Easterner to skipper a European Cup winning side since Bobby Charlton led Manchester United to victory in 1968.

Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson charts the 28-year-old’s rise from Sunderland’s academy to the biggest stage in the European game


Henderson was born in Sunderland and grew up in Herrington, honing his skills by playing with his schoolmates at West Park.

He attended Farringdon School, which also boasts Olympic boxer Tony Jeffries and England cricketer Scott Borthwick amongst its former pupils, and remains close to Dave Robinson, who was his PE teacher during his secondary-school days.


Dave Robinson: “I’m just so proud of what he has gone on to achieve. It’s fantastic for him, for his family and everyone at Farringdon.

“He deserves great credit for the enormous work he has put in to get where he has. He has always been like that. He was always the type of lad that would just play anywhere and work hard.

“He always stood out in the team, but was happy to play anywhere to help his team-mates and friends. He just loved playing football and had this desire to constantly improve – and that has stayed with him.

“I had him in my Year 9, 10 and 11 team. I could never fault his attitude. He just always wanted to learn. He always had something extra. He was a super lad when he was at Farringdon and still is.

“His team won the league and cup double at Under-16s. It was a lovely group to be the coach of and Jordan was such a key part of that. He might not have been the captain, because we used to give others the opportunity to grow into the role too, but he was always leading with his attitude.”


The Northern Echo:

Henderson joined Sunderland’s academy at the age of eight, and worked under a number of coaches including Kevin Ball and Ged McNamee.

He signed his first professional contract in 2008, and was part of the same development group as Jack Colback and Martyn Waghorn. However, it wasn’t immediately apparent that he would blossom into a senior professional.

Ged McNamee: “He was there from a really young age, but when he reached Under-15s and Under-16s, they were tough years for him.

“He went through growth problems and lost a bit of confidence on the back of it so it was a bit of a struggle for him for a little while, and there were questions asked about whether he would make the next step in to full-time football.

“Fortunately, we all sat round a table with sports scientists and discussed him and they told us that he would develop, grow and get stronger with time – and the rest is history. He came in as a scholar and just took off.”

Kevin Ball: “Everybody played a part at Sunderland, from the coaches to the nutritionists, everyone. Carlton Fairweather and Elliot Dickman, and one or two others, coached him before me, and they all played a big part in his development and have played a big part in his future.

“Everyone always backed Jordan’s attitude and ability. He wasn’t a great size at the time, not the biggest, aesthetically and physically, because he was relatively slight for his age. But the bit that surpassed all that was his attitude - he was unbelievable.

“He was infectious on those around him, even in a race he knew he would lose, he would do everything to win it. He has undoubted football ability, but has this desire too, and an undoubted love of the game.

“He’s a very skilful player, sees things I couldn’t see. I remember in a national final at 17, he turned in the middle of the park and it was one of the most brilliant pieces of skill I had seen by anyone. It was Jordan who did it. It was a learning curve for me because I knew then I had to let him express himself in the middle.”


The Northern Echo:

Having established himself in Sunderland’s junior set-up, Henderson was handed his senior debut by Roy Keane in November 2008. He came off the bench with Sunderland trailing 3-0 against Chelsea, in a game they would go on to lose 5-0.

He spent the second half of his maiden campaign on loan at Coventry City, playing under Chris Coleman in the Championship, and returned to establish himself in Sunderland’s first team under Steve Bruce.

Jordan Henderson: “My time at Sunderland was great. I really enjoyed it. I had Kevin Ball during my apprenticeship and he was very good, we had a good team to be fair and it was brilliant.

“Bally was really, really heavy on certain things and that made it hard, but he drilled it into you and that was important.

“The discipline side of it for Bally was massive and now it is huge for me because I have seen a lot of good players and talented players who haven’t really had the discipline or haven’t had the right attitude, and they aren’t playing football any more, which isn’t nice to see.

“Roy was a huge part of me getting my chance as a footballer. He gave me my debut at Sunderland and had a huge impact. I can never really repay him for that. To work under him, knowing what he was as a player was amazing, really.

“He taught me a lot. I was a young lad coming into the first team and he didn’t tell me specifics, but he could see how hard I worked. I hope he saw a bit of quality in there too. I can never repay him for giving me an opportunity.”

Steve Bruce: “All Jordan cares about is football, he eats, sleeps and breathes it. Long may that continue, and I have a feeling it will. He's never given anyone a moment's trouble and I wouldn't believe it if I heard he'd been caught up in something off the field.”


The Northern Echo:

While Sir Alex Ferguson revealed in his autobiography he turned down the chance to sign Henderson for Manchester United because of ‘concerns over his running style’, Kenny Dalglish had no such worries and persuaded the Anfield hierarchy to shell out £20m to sign the Wearsider in June 2011.

He initially struggled to hold down a place in Liverpool’s first team, with Brendan Rodgers coming close to selling him to Fulham as part of a swap deal involving Clint Dempsey, but he has blossomed under Jurgen Klopp, taking over the captain’s armband from Steven Gerrard.

Jamie Carragher: “Kenny wanted to find a place for him in the team, and he initially played a lot of games on the right of midfield. It took him time to find his feet. He could be a very intense character back then who would get frustrated and emotional at times, but I remember him having a spat with Luis Suarez in training one day and I just thought, 'Do you know what? He has something’.

“They didn't come to blows or anything like that, but Jordan and Luis clashed over something and exchanged words, but Jordan stood up to him. That's not easy as a young player, especially with Luis being one of the older, established pros, but it showed Jordan's determination, and a lot of us, myself included, wanted him to do well because he was so enthusiastic and clearly hungry to succeed.”

Adam Lallana:  “He’s my best mate and it means just as much to me seeing him lift it (the Champions League trophy). Everyone, myself, (James) Milner, (Virgil) Van Dijk, Mo (Salah), everyone has the respect for him.  Now he’s lifted Big Ears up there his name deserves to be with the legends of this club forever.

“Taking the armband off Stevie G wasn’t going to be easy and would come with questions. There’s never been a moment of doubt from anyone inside those walls of Melwood.

“He is selfless, I’ve seen it countless times. We travel in together to Melwood most days, and I hear phone calls he takes and I’ve witnessed things his does for this football club. He’s a mountain of a man and I’m delighted to experience what we have as a team, as a squad together.”


One of the most widely-viewed moments from Saturday’s final in Madrid came after the final whistle, when Jordan Henderson spotted his dad, Brian, in the crowd at the Estadio Metropolitano and headed over from a lengthy embrace.

The pair were in tears as they celebrated Liverpool’s success, with the moment having a special poignancy because of Brian’s battle against cancer in the last few years.

A retired police officer from Washington, Brian went to have a cyst removed from his neck in December 2013, only to be told that it was cancerous and there was no guarantee he would be able to survive.

At first, he did not want to tell Jordan what was happening because he was worried the news might adversely affect his son’s attempts to establish himself at Liverpool.

Eventually, he disclosed what he was battling against, but was adamant he did not want Jordan to see him while he was undergoing treatment.

He had chemotherapy and radiotherapy to shrink the carcinoma in his throat and needed surgery to remove the lymph nodes from his neck, meaning he was unable to fly to Brazil to watch Jordan represent England in the 2014 World Cup.

With his recovery complete, he was in Madrid at the weekend, and his embrace with his son touched the hearts of football fans all around the world.

“My dad has been through a lot over the past few years, not only with himself but with his family,” said Jordan. “I am sure he will be so proud to see us win the game and win the Champions League. It will mean the world to him. I am just glad I can put a smile on his face.”

When asked about his reaction in an interview with Optus Sport, Brian said: “When he was ten, I took him to see a Champions League final between the two Milans at Man United and he said to us when they came out to the Champions League music, ‘Dad, I'm going to play there one day’. He's done it not once, but twice. And he's won one. I'm absolutely delighted for him.

“I am the proudest man in the world. Absolutely. It's just very emotional, the tears come, you start shaking, you grab your wife, you grab your daughter-in-law, you grab anybody that's around you. I'm just so, so happy.”