Tournaments can pull the curtain on international careers. If Jordan Henderson looks at some of his midfield acolytes, he can see it. Steven Gerrard retired from the England squad after the 2014 World Cup, James Milner after Euro 2016. Henderson is now 32, around 13 years older than Jude Bellingham, and the second oldest player from Gareth Southgate’s squad, three weeks younger than the age-defying. sprinter Kyle Walker.
If there was any temptation to think he would focus on club football after the World Cup, think again. “As a child one of my dreams was to play for England, my biggest dream ever,” he said. “That will never change.” It’s this attitude that explains his unexpected presence in the England squad – the midfielder was in contact with Southgate during his recovery from a hamstring problem, getting back into contention even before Kalvin Phillips was gone. excluded.
Henderson got his first taste of tournament football at Euro 2012 long enough ago that, despite being the only member of Roy Hodgson’s party still playing for his country, two – Gerrard and Scott Parker – have succeeded in the Premier League this season. A decade later, he doesn’t see the World Cup as his last chance to win silverware with his country. “I hope not,” he said. “I always feel good. I wouldn’t look too far – I don’t think it’s necessary – but this is another huge opportunity.
There are several elements to his justification for delaying retirement. Along with Walker, Henderson may be England’s senior, but Cristiano Ronaldo is a particularly stark example of a player who extends his international career well into his late 30s. As the Liverpool captain returns from a spell on the sidelines now, he played 57 games for his club alone last season.
“I look at some players who are still playing internationals at 36 and 37,” he explained. “So it just depends on how you feel physically and I feel very good. I think last season I played more games than anyone else in Europe. So physically this n It’s not a problem and I’m still excited to be here with England.
Life at Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, with their reputedly intense approach, means Henderson can’t afford to slow down. Running power has always been a hallmark of his game and he believes it remains that way. “I don’t know if I’m any fitter than when I was 20 because I was pretty fit back then,” he said. “But I feel like I’m in such a good position.”
It helps that he avoids alcohol during the season, an idea that made him an anomaly. “I’ve never done this since I was a kid, and I’ve always eaten the right things,” he said. “It was always with me as a kid. I never wanted to go out drinking or do anything like that. It was always football, football, football.
“If you go back to the beginning of my career, I was probably an exception. Whereas now when I look I would say the exception is drinking. A lot of players don’t drink in general. A big part of the team Liverpool don’t drink. Win or lose, they’re not on booze.
England had little success toasting in his absence. The exception to Henderson’s heavy workload came in the summer. He was rested from four Nations League games which produced two draws, two defeats and the worst spell in Gareth Southgate’s tenure. “The players and the manager would also be frustrated and disappointed with the summer, so sometimes you know you take criticism on the chin,” Henderson added. “There are reasons behind it: watching the games, I could see physically and mentally that a lot of guys looked really tired with the long season they had.
Henderson’s argument is that they should use their miserable June as motivation. He may have extra motivation at the World Cup, and not because it might be his last tournament. As England reached the final of Euro 2020, Henderson was a bit apart, injured early in the competition and then unable to dislodge Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in the side. If England’s trip to Italy on Friday is a rematch of this Euro 2020 final, it is also a first opportunity to make amends for the historic 4-0 beating in June by Hungary.
“Bad losses never recover properly,” Henderson added. “It will always stay inside, but it can be a good thing, you can use it as extra motivation, a bit of a burning desire to put things in order and hopefully we can do that before the tournament.
“It’s not just about doing things right, it’s about preparing for the biggest competition in the world. The excitement, the adrenaline, the last experiences we’ve had, we want to create more memories, go further, to do that you have to be 100%, and if we do, we have a very, very small chance. But not, he thinks, his last chance.