EARLIER this week, Jordan Henderson was named England’s Player of the Year for 2019, an honour bestowed by the supporters of the national team. He was a worthy recipient of the title, but it should not be the only major award he wins in the next few months. If it was up to me, Henderson would be the Footballer of the Year for the 2019-20 season too.

I accept there is still more than a third of the campaign to go, and there is therefore an opportunity for someone to perform previously unforeseen heroics before the season wraps up in May. Form can fluctuate, but let’s assume that things continue pretty much as they are.

Liverpool win the league at a canter, potentially remaining unbeaten to match Arsenal’s invincibles. Mo Salah and Sadio Mane continue to bang in the goals, with Virgil van Dijk remaining rock solid at the back. Kevin de Bruyne sparkles for Manchester City, who finish second. Jamie Vardy remains prolific for Leicester City, who qualify for the Champions League, while Marcus Rashford finishes the season strongly for a resurgent Manchester United.

All very believable, and all scenarios that would result in the aforementioned six players being put forward for the Footballer of the Year gong. Salah and van Dijk will have their supporters, perhaps with Trent Alexander-Arnold also being championed, but on the evidence of the season so far, Mane will be likeliest individual winner from Liverpool. The bookmakers think so, making the forward a strong favourite in their Player of the Year market. De Bruyne is the likeliest winner if Liverpool falter, or if the number of potential contenders based at Anfield split the champions-in-waiting’s vote.

In terms of brilliance, it is hard to look past Mane and de Bruyne, but the Footballer of the Year doesn’t necessarily have to be the most skilful player on display. Van Dijk’s personal honours last season confirmed as much. To me, the Footballer of the Year should be the person who has had the biggest impact on their team over the course of the season, enabling them to achieve more than would have been the case had they not been present. That is Henderson to a tee.

If you don’t believe me, listen to Jurgen Klopp, when quizzed about the Wearsider’s importance in the wake of this month’s victory over Sheffield United. “Jordan is exceptional, he is outstanding,” said the Liverpool boss. “What he does is incredible, just incredible. I do not take that for granted for one second. If anybody who is with us still doesn’t see the quality of Jordan Henderson, then I cannot help them.”

More than anybody else, Henderson has become the player who makes Liverpool tick. On the pitch, he is the midfield fulcrum, knitting play together, hassling and harrying opponents to kick-start his side’s revered high press and filling the gaps that enable the likes of Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to pour forward with abandon. Off the field, he has become a leader and figurehead, commanding respect from his team-mates and representing Liverpool with an understated authority.

“Ah, but he only ever passes sideways,” moan the naysayers. Nonsense. In his youthful days, both at Sunderland and in his earliest incarnation at Anfield, he could be accused of taking the safe option far too often. Not anymore. Yes, he likes to keep things simple, rarely conceding possession and quickly shuffling the ball to one of his team-mates if it helps pull an opponent out of position, but he can be expansive and adventurous when required.

In the Sheffield United game that led to Klopp’s comments, Henderson led Liverpool’s passing statistics with a remarkable 131 passes, 92 per cent of which were successfully completed. Eighty-two of those passes were in the opposition’s half, with 35 ending with the ball in the final third. Not done with that, Henderson also won possession from an opponent 12 times.

There have been plenty of occasions this season when he has spread play with a pinpoint long-range pass. If David Silva does similar at Manchester City, he is lauded as a midfield genius. When Henderson does it, attention immediately switches to what Mane or Salah are going to do next once they have received the ball.

His passing has improved to match the level of his work rate, which has always been hugely impressive. His reading of the game has also come on in leaps and bounds, enabling him to slot in to wherever he is required. When Fernandinho was removed from the Manchester City midfield, their defensive solidity collapsed. When Fabinho become unavailable at Liverpool, Henderson simply shuffled across to replace the Brazilian without any fuss.

“He didn’t like the number six position when he saw how good Fabinho is,” added Klopp. “But after two or three weeks there, when he had already been exceptional, I asked him, ‘You don’t like the position do you?’, and he just laughed. Before that, he was playing at centre-half.”

He must be a manager’s dream, and it is no surprise that he is regularly lauded by his fellow professionals, who appreciate his value as part of a team set-up.

He has had to dig deep to get to where he is today. There were a number of occasions in his early days at Liverpool when he seemed destined to leave as a failure, indeed he was offered to Fulham in 2012 as part of a proposed swap deal involving Clint Dempsey. How Klopp and the rest of Liverpool’s current set-up must be delighted the transfer fell through.

Since joining Liverpool in 2015, Klopp has spent approximately £154m on central midfielders, yet Henderson’s remains one of the first names on his team sheet.

Born and raised in Sunderland, and groomed at the Academy of Light, he is a credit to the North-East game. Yet even here in his homeland, he remains chronically underappreciated.

Hopefully, that is beginning to change. England’s supporters, who travel the world to support Gareth Southgate’s team, selected the 29-year-old as their Player of the Year ahead of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, who might have been considered more ‘exciting’ selections.

Come the end of the season, it is to be hoped Henderson’s Premier League peers and the nation’s football writers do the same. Mane, Salah, van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold are brilliant, but Henderson is the player this record-breaking Liverpool team cannot do without.