Q&A JORDAN HENDERSON
'Creating our own history'
Captain Jordan Henderson believes his side can emulate the historic final nights of Liverpool's past
What has been the highlight of the season so far?
There have been a few brilliant moments, beating good teams like City, Porto … tough games. But I think Rome. We knew how difficult it would be to qualify, and to get through to the final was a big moment. Hopefully the final can be the biggest moment of all.
As captain, how proud are you of how this group has developed?
Very proud of the players and everybody who’s involved. I see how hard they work every day and what they give to this football club. They want to improve, they want to learn and be successful. To see that we’re going in
that direction is amazing. We’ve got some great players, some young players – a young squad – but they’ve also played some big games and played very well, showing a lot of maturity. We’ve just got to give it one more big push. If we give it everything, and play like we can, then we’ll have a chance.
It’s been a long time since the play-offs against Hoffenheim. Could you have imagined coming this far this quickly at the start of the season?
We’ve got high expectations as a team. There was no reason why we couldn’t get to the final in our eyes, and even win it, because of how good we are as a team. When we play like we can, then it’s tough for anyone. There have been times when we’ve been suffering a little bit, but we’ve dug in and bounced back really well. In the away game against Sevilla, we were 3-0 up and then we went to 3-3. You’ve got to learn from things like that and use that experience.
This group of players has a tremendous team spirit. How important is your role as captain in fostering that?
It’s obviously a big responsibility being the captain of this football club, but one that I enjoy and do to the best of my abilities. There are other leaders in the group as well who make that a lot easier. We’re a close group and I think you can see that on the pitch. That’s important when you want to go far. It’s a special group of players. Now we’ve just got to go and win trophies.
A word on the front three. How well do they dovetail together?
They’ve been brilliant all season. Obviously, they work really well together, with the runs and the assists and goals that they get, but their work rate for the team to press and get the ball back is important, and they’re huge to what we try to do as a team. They’ve been fantastic all season, so I think you’ll see the best of them in the final again.
Tell us about Liverpool’s connection to this competition.
European football is massive in the history. A lot of great wins in the past. We take inspiration from the past players and the past teams that have won trophies in European football or domestic, but the most important thing for us is creating our own history and giving everything to do that. And this is a good chance to do it.
The club is emotionally charged on European nights. What role do the fans play?
A massive role. If you’ve been to Anfield, you understand why. Even away games. In Rome, I think it was 5,000 people and they were outstanding. It gives a big lift to the players. It gives a big boost when you go through a tough period. It’s an amazing feeling when you go out there and you want to give everything.
The biggest test is still to come. What do you know about Real Madrid?
They’re a very good team, very good players, and they have a lot of experience. They’ve won a lot of trophies. So, of course, they’ll be favourites to win. But I just believe in this group. I believe in the team, the manager, everybody. If we give everything and play like I know we can, then I have full faith that we can go and hurt them. And hopefully beat them.
You were 14 when Liverpool won the Champions League in Istanbul. What are your memories of that?
Amazing memories, it was an amazing game to watch. I remember watching it at home with a friend, and at half-time you think the game’s over. You’re thinking it’ll be tough for Liverpool, but then the second half came and it was unbelievable. It’s definitely one of the best games I’ve ever watched.
Will you speak to any of Liverpool’s former captains before the final?
Possibly. Obviously, I’m still in contact with Stevie [Gerrard] so I’m pretty sure I’ll speak to him, but I’ve just got to do what I normally do.
What’s your leadership style? Will you give any speeches?
Not really, I think that’s something the manager will do – a lot of talking before the game and meetings. The most important meetings are about how we’re going to set up and play and try to win. I don’t think you need any extra motivation for a Champions League final, but obviously a few of us will say a few things before the game like normal. We’ll see how it goes.
You mentioned the manager. What sort of influence has he had on the club?
A massive influence, from when he came in to where the club is now. He’s had a huge impact on not only the players but the whole club, the fans – everything has just gone to another level. He’s very passionate as you can see on the sidelines, and that’s how he is every day in training; he’s always pushing us to improve as players and always keeping us on our toes and wanting us to do better. As players, we’re very honoured to be playing under a manager like him, because you learn a lot.
What will it mean to lead the club out in a European Cup final?
A lot. It means so much to the players, to me, to the manager, and to everybody – you can see how much it means to us when we play football. You saw how much it meant to us off the pitch after getting to the final in Rome, when we were celebrating with the fans. It’ll be a huge night. But we want to remember it for the right reasons. We want to go and win it.