On the pitch, England midfielder Jordan Henderson is tenacious, admirable and selfless – qualities he also has in abundance off the field.
His feats include being awarded an MBE after leading the players’ movement that raised millions of pounds for the NHS during the pandemic.
The Liverpool skipper, 31, has also done great work in secret, organising Christmas parties for deserving kids at the club’s Anfield ground, spending thousands on presents for them.
Kevin Ball, Henderson’s former coach at his previous club Sunderland, said today: “Having worked with him in his formative years, what he has done for others does not surprise me.
“He would look out for team-mates from a very early age. If we had big games, some players did not live so close by, so they would stay at his home with his mum and dad.
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“He never told anyone he was doing that – 12 years have passed and he’s still looking out for others.”
Ball, 56, who also played for Sunderland, added: “I told a colleague when Jordan was 17 that he would play for England.
“He has such a strength of character that it was never in doubt for me. You can see his influence on the game and the younger England players.”
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Neal Holder, the head teacher of Farringdon Community Academy in Sunderland, has also paid tribute to their famous former pupil.
Mr Holder said: “Footballers get such a bad press, but Jordan is one to be proud of. All my staff talk highly of him from his time at the school.
“He is really determined, resilient, a man of the people. He shows our pupils that anything is possible if you work hard enough for it.”
The England player’s former PE teacher Dave Robinson said Henderson always stood out in the school team, but was happy to play anywhere to “help his team-mates”.
He added: “He was a super lad at Farringdon and still is. I’m so proud of what he has gone on to achieve. It’s fantastic for everyone here.”
Henderson, the son of former police officer Brian and fitness teacher Liz, was sold from Sunderland to Liverpool in 2011 when he was 20.
Brian did not see his son for five months in 2014 during treatment for throat cancer. The dad did not want to upset his son as Liverpool made a Premier League title bid.
Then in 2019 when Henderson lifted the Champions League trophy, father and son shared a tearful embrace on the pitch. They have been unable to meet over the past 12 months because Brian is vulnerable due to Covid.
Last month Henderson was awarded an MBE for services to charity.
He dedicated the honour to the “true heroes” of the crisis – “all the nurses, doctors, carers, porters, admin workers, cleaners, security personnel… every single individual who devotes lives to making the NHS the part of British life we are rightly most proud of”.
He said he knew family and friends who worked on the front line, and that they told him how they comforted patients as they made their final calls to loved ones.
Henderson was an architect of the Players Together initiative that has raised millions by encouraging players to donate to the NHS.
It came after it emerged in 2018 the dad-of-three had been doing great work in secret to bring some cheer to underprivileged children.
It was only revealed when party worker Ellie Phillips went public to say thank you to Henderson and his then Liverpool team-mate Adam Lallana.
She said: “They are both honestly the most humble, down to earth, generous people who made a lot of kids Christmases today. Our captain is the boss.”
Henderson has also taken a stand via social media against racism.
And this year he expressed the players’ discontent at the planned breakaway European Super League – even though it was backed by Liverpool’s US owners the Fenway Group.
Henderson and wife Rebecca Burnett have a daughter, born in 2014, a girl, who arrived a year later, and a son who was born exactly nine months after Liverpool’s 4-0 triumph over Barcelona in the 2019 Champions League semi-final.
His former Liverpool team-mate Jamie Carragher said: “I don’t think many captains, if any, have ever done more than Jordan Henderson off the pitch.
“In Covid times, he has been a huge leader, and not just for Liverpool but for the Premier League and the football fraternity.”
Henderson has 62 England caps and scored his first international goal in the Euro 2020 win against Ukraine. The modest Wearsider usually works under the radar, making things better for others.