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TTT: Suarez’s 1st At Stoke – Goal of the Season?

by Bob Pearce. Luis Suarez, 2013-14 model. This season he has shown himself to be both a great scorer of goals and a scorer of great goals. I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that Suarez could have his own private ‘Goal of the Season’ competition, such has been the sheer quality and downright audacity of his finishing. With the rate that he keeps adding new masterpieces to his season’s collection it will be a struggle to whittle them down to a short list of ten. But maybe I’m going to be in a minority in arguing that his first goal at Stoke had such unique qualities that I believe it should seriously be considered for ‘Goal of the Season’ above all others in his collection (so far). Clearly it cannot be for the standard reasons that goals seem to get selected. It was not scored after a flowing passing move of breath-taking intricacy and co-ordination. It was not the result of individual skill of devastating and devilish trickery. It was not even a scintillating and spectacular ‘too-hot-to-handle’ missile of a shot from distance. This was a goal scored through rarely seen, probably rarely witnessed, and definitely rarely recognised skills and abilities that have nothing to do with actually even having possession of the ball. For this reason of rarity value it has enormous educational value to football fans of all ages, and should be shown again and again until the proverbial video tape wears out. The rest of this article is for Subscribers only. Member-only content – you need to subscribe to read it ! A subscription costs only £3.50 per month. Find out what you get with your subscription, or Subscribe now.

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GUARDIAN – The rise and rise of Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson since ‘Gait-gate’ | Sachin Nakrani

The midfielder’s excellent display against Tottenham on Sunday proves he is now a key part of Brendan Rodgers’ sideSir Alex Ferguson started it, Brendan Rodgers finished it, and amidst it all was a young man left wondering why everybody was suddenly talking about his gait. It’s fair to say that Jordan Henderson could have done without the criticism Manchester United’s former manager delivered in October, but the manner in which the midfielder has performed since only adds to the sense that he has truly arrived at Anfield.”A beautiful boy to train,” was Rodgers’ assessment of Henderson following his excellent display in Liverpool’s 5-0 victory over Tottenham on Sunday, with the Liverpool manager having described the 23-year-old as “the most improved player in the Premier League this season” shortly after Ferguson’s critique of the player, contained in his latest autobiography, became public.While that is debatable, there is no doubt Henderson is progressing. He has started every one of Liverpool’s 16 league games, as well as their Capital One Cup third-round defeat at Old Trafford in September. Indeed, the only match Henderson has not started this season is the second-round victory over Notts County, but he still made his presence felt by scoring an important and well-taken goal in extra-time having come on as a 65th-minute substitute.Not every performance has been impressive, but few now doubt that Henderson is an important element of Liverpool’s midfield, providing energy, drive and assurance in possession, traits all seen in the rout of Spurs, when the midfielder made up for the absence of Steven Gerrard through injury with arguably his best showing for the Merseysiders since arriving from Sunderland two years ago, one capped by his first league goal of the season from a position just behind Luis Suárez. Little wonder the former England Under-21 captain is now also back in the senior squad and realistically setting his sights on a place in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup party.Rewind a little over 14 months and all this would have seemed rather fanciful. Back then, Henderson was unsure of his future at Liverpool following a poor first season at the club – “at times it was painful watching him,” says James Pearce, a football reporter for the Liverpool Echo – and with Rodgers keen to sign Clint Dempsey, Henderson was offered the chance to move to Fulham as part of a swap deal. “He told me that he wanted to stay here and fight,” remembers Rodgers, and with that Henderson slowly but surely established himself in a side now harbouring realistic aspirations of reclaiming a place in the Champions League.That Henderson did not take the easy way out and swap Merseyside for a life by the Thames is not surprising. This, after all, is a player who has never had it easy, never run from a challenge. Having joined Sunderland, his boyhood club, aged seven, Henderson came perilously close to not making the grade there. Four scholars from the same academy group were given professional contracts ahead of him and it ultimately came down to a choice between two regarding who would get the fifth.Sunderland’s youth staff, headed by the academy manager, Ged McNamee, ultimately decided to promote the baby-faced midfielder with the man-sized lungs.Even then, however, Henderson faced difficulties. Aged 16, he had been diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease, a painful condition that affects the upper part of the shin bone and most commonly occurs in teenagers who play sport. “It’s a growing pain thing,” explained Henderson in an interview with the Guardian earlier this year. “I just shot up immediately and I didn’t have any kind of physique to deal with it. I was tall, all arms and legs, and a bit gangly.”Physically unorthodox he may have been but Henderson progressed through Sunderland’s ranks and, aged 18, made his debut for the first-team midway through the 2008-09 season, prior to a loan spell at Coventry during which he fractured a bone in his foot. He returned from that setback and to the Stadium of Light where a regular first-team place beckoned but, yet again, came a bump in the road.”Jordan instantly took to being part of the first team, whether that be playing wide on the right or in central midfield, but among the fans he divided opinion,” says Graeme Anderson, sports writer for the Sunderland Echo. “There were those who admired his stamina, athleticism and passing range and could see that he had the potential to be a star, and others who just didn’t see what he offered the team, who felt he was neither one thing nor the other or the sort of player who could run a match. Normally, the Sunderland crowd instantly take to a local kid and back him no matter what. But that was not the case with Jordan; he had to win a lot of people over.”That he did and in June 2011 came the then 20-year-old’s £20m move to Liverpool. “I’m over the moon,” said Henderson at the time. He would soon, though, come crashing down to earth.”Jordan would be the first to admit that he found it difficult to adjust to the pressure and expectation of being a Liverpool player,” says Pearce, with the player admitting himself to feeling overwhelmed soon after his arrival at Anfield. “When you come to a club like Liverpool you need to perform straight away and consistently. Looking back, I don’t think I did that,” he said.In Henderson’s defence, there were mitigating circumstances. He was a young man living in a new city and, as he soon realised, playing for a club with taxing expectations. Added to that was the fact that then manager Kenny Dalglish initially deployed Henderson on the right side of midfield, a position he had filled at Sunderland but not one he favoured and certainly a requirement he could have done without during those early stages when it was hard enough getting to know new team-mates in a completely new environment.Henderson did, in fact, make a quick impact at Liverpool, scoring a finely-taken goal in the 3-1 home victory over Bolton on 27 August 2011. But, overall, the 2011-12 season is one he will not reflect on with great fondness. As Pearce adds: “He looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights; passes would inevitably go sideways rather than forwards.”What especially did not help Henderson was his association with what was a generally poorly throughout and executed series of signings in the 2011 calendar year. Andy Carroll (£35m), Stewart Downing (£20m), Charlie Adam (£7.5m) were additions which now make all Kopites wince and, in April 2012, cost Damien Comolli his job as director of football.There is no doubt that Carroll, Downing and Adam were costly mistakes but Henderson, it was always felt, could prove value for money. He was young, clearly rich in potential and, as Anderson outlines, in possession of the right character to make it as a top-line professional: “Jordan doesn’t smoke, drink or gamble and when he was in Sunderland the only time you’d really see him out was at the supermarket. He has always shown total dedication to becoming a footballer.” Henderson’s refusal to join Fulham last summer backs up the view of him being someone with the heart to succeed and now, under Rodgers, he is blossoming.”Henderson has progressed hugely over the last 12 months,” says the football writer Richard Jolly. “Rodgers’ coaching seems to have helped; there is a sense he is being briefed on precisely what he is expected to do in each role and there is a growing maturity to his game; his passing in particular is becoming more perceptive.”The question is whether he becomes [Steven] Gerrard’s long-term replacement or, if Rodgers makes a major buy, he reverts from being a regular to a squad player. If, say, Willian had joined in the summer, he might have begun several games this season on the bench.”That could well have been the case and it remains true that for all the progress Henderson has made, he remains a work in progress. Yet a general improvement is beyond question, with the weekend display at White Hart Lane suggesting he has what it takes to become a truly pivotal member of Rodgers’ team. “Jordan deserves huge credit for the way he has transformed his Liverpool career,” says Pearce. “The biggest compliment I can pay him is that he looks like he belongs at Anfield these days. He is now one of the first names on the team-sheet and tactically he has improved massively under Rodgers and is playing with real confidence. He still needs to pose more of a goal threat in the final third but that will come. The exciting thing for Liverpool is at 23 he’s still learning and developing.”During the tough times, when those in Merseyside and beyond were questioning Henderson’s capabilities and wondering whether he would go down as one of Liverpool’s most expensive flops, the policeman’s son from Sunderland claimed he never read the sports pages or heard what was being said about him on the radio and on television.He admitted, however, to becoming “more down than anyone if I hadn’t played particularly well” and, as such, nobody could have blamed Henderson if he had walked away when the chance presented itself. Instead, a man used to setbacks fought on and once again prevailed. Time will tell just how far Henderson goes at Anfield, but what is for sure is that he has already made great strides. Not bad for someone who apparently runs from his knees.This is an updated version of an article that appeared in the latest edition of The Anfield Wrap magazine. LiverpoolSachin Nakranitheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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