Jordan Henderson is celebrating his 30th birthday and his biggest present is still to come.
The Liverpool star is just two wins away from lifting the club's first league title in as many years as he's been alive and would become the Reds' first skipper to get his hands on the Premier League trophy in particular.
The coveted accolade would look lovely alongside the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup that he's already lifted during a phenomenal 12 months on Merseyside.
It could also be joined by the PFA Player of the Year award for which he is currently the favourite ahead of Kevin De Bruyne as well as teammates Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk.
However, the latest milestone in Henderson's life is the perfect opportunity to remember that things weren't always this lucrative for the Englishman and that his journey to the top was a difficult one.
Doubts from Sir Alex Ferguson
So, as way of tipping our hat to one of Liverpool and English football's most inspiring figures, we decided to reflect on all the times he was doubted, derided and criticised but still kept fighting back.
First and foremost, history could have looked very different if Henderson had moved to Manchester United in 2011, something that almost happened if it wasn't for Sir Alex Ferguson's intervention.
“We looked at Jordan Henderson a lot and Steve Bruce was unfailingly enthusiastic about him,” the 13-time Premier League champion explained in his 2013 autobiography.
“Against that we noticed that Henderson runs from his knees, with a straight back, while the modern footballer runs from his hips. We thought his gait might cause him problems later in his career.”
Liverpool staff sacked for signing him
Of course, he eventually put pen to paper on a Liverpool move in 2011, but the decision was deemed so poor that Damien Comolli was sacked a year later partly for securing the transfer.
“I remember the day I was sacked, the owners told me, Jordan Henderson what a massive mistake it was,” he informed talkSPORT in 2019. "That was about the only thing they told me.”
It's fair to say Comolli is owed an apology. However, the Liverpool hierarchy weren't the only people to think that Henderson's arrival was an error and criticism had rained in as recently as 2018.
Called 'too safe' by Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard, of all people, said per the Daily Mail: “Sometimes Jordan plays the easy or safe pass when sometimes I think he has got that little bit more in his locker.
“He can open a defence up and he has got a decent range of passing but at times I think he does (play it too safe).”
Almost swapped for Clint Dempsey
However, he might not have gotten as far as being criticised by a player he once starred alongside if Brendan Rodgers had succeeded in swapping him for Clint Dempsey in the summer of 2012.
"Brendan called me in and said 'Listen, this is the offer' and he asked me what I thought," Henderson himself explained to the Daily Mail.
"It implied to me that he would let me leave and it was up to me. I went back to my room. I shed a few tears. I ended up crying a little bit because it hurt so much. I had the game that night to think about it as well.
"I spoke to my agent and told him what had happened and I said I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay and fight and try and improve and try to prove the manager wrong. My agent agreed. I spoke to my dad. He was gutted but he backed my decision to stay and fight.
Stay and fight he did.
Showing his fight in training
And Jamie Carragher revealed earlier this month that Henderson's drive was always apparent at Melwood, even during the days when he fell out of favour and was routinely criticised by fans.
"He spoke about the reaction or the little bit of a bust-up he had with Luis Suarez, because he was finding it really tough to almost be accepted in some ways by certain players in the dressing room, whether he was good enough," Carragher told Sky Sports.
"He had a little bit of a bust up, not a major one, with Luis Suarez, a few words were exchanged in training, and I thought: 'Oh yeah, I like that'.
"Because Luis Suarez was our best player at the time, him and Stevie Gerrard, and Luis was getting frustrated with a pass he gave him or something, and for him to stand up as a young kid at 20 or 21 it just shows how much it meant to him."
Fast forward to his 30th birthday and he's arguably Liverpool's 'best player at the time'. Take a bow, Jordan.
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