No England player is derided more than Jordan Henderson. Scroll through social media after a Three Lions international and the likelihood is unfavourable comments about the Liverpool midfielder will be in ample supply.
It was no different after the recent friendly against the Netherlands in Amsterdam. Although England stepped up their World Cup preparations with a morale-boosting 1-0 victory, Henderson was subjected to the usual vitriol and abuse.
Charged by Gareth Southgate of shielding the back three, the 27-year-old carried out his instructions to the letter, helping the visitors keep their fifth successive clean sheet.
Furthermore, Henderson was able to have a positive influence in attack, pushing England forward with his range of passing, both short and long. His performance was commended by Southgate, who had entrusted him with the captaincy in the absence of Harry Kane.
It is not only the England manager who values Henderson’s qualities. Jurgen Klopp has frequently spoken of his admiration for his skipper.
Succeeding someone as iconic as Steven Gerrard – at a club as prestigious as Liverpool – was a daunting task, but Henderson has not been overawed by the armband. In fact, he has relished the extra responsibility at Anfield.
This season has been a hugely encouraging one for Liverpool. They have progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and look set to finish in the top four of the Premier League.
Much of the attention has focused on Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino, whose exploits in front of goal have grabbed the headlines. The Egyptian, in particular, has been a revelation and is the frontrunner to win the Golden Boot.
For every Salah there is a Henderson, someone who keeps the side ticking. Much of what he does goes unnoticed. Perhaps it is only the Liverpool supporters who see him at close quarters that recognise the work he undertakes.
The dropping deep to collect the ball from the goalkeeper. The pressing when the opposition are in possession. The tempo he dictates. The movement that enables more creative players the time and space to work their magic. It’s not always pretty, but it’s mightily effective.
You won’t see Henderson dribble past three opponents before smashing the ball into the top corner – that is not his function in the team. But it doesn’t make his contribution any less important. Every building needs strong foundations and Henderson is the bedrock upon which Liverpool’s most dazzling talents can flourish.
Unlike on the continent, the value of a holding midfielder is continually overlooked in England. It is a testament to the former Sunderland man that, despite the negative perception about him, he continues to hold down a place for both club and country.
As well as his attributes on the pitch, Henderson is a total professional off it, dedicated to extracting every ounce of ability he has.
In two months’ time, Southgate will finalise his 23-man squad for the World Cup. There is no question that, fitness permitting, Henderson will be on the plane to Russia.
In all probability, he will be named in the starting XI for England’s opening fixture against Tunisia on June 18. Unfashionable though he may be, Liverpool and England will continue to benefit from Henderson’s reassuring presence.