Jordan Henderson addresses a number of topics during his matchday programme notes for the final game of the 2020-21 season.
Liverpool host Crystal Palace at Anfield this afternoon with 10,000 supporters permitted to attend – the first crowd inside the stadium since December.
The Reds’ push for Champions League qualification is in their own hands, with Jürgen Klopp’s side ahead of Leicester City with a greater goal difference of four.
Henderson details his admiration for the efforts of his teammates that have re-ignited the club’s top-four hopes and underlines the challenge of overcoming the Eagles in the final hurdle.
The captain also explains his delight at the prospect of welcoming supporters back to help the squad and pays a special tribute to Georginio Wijnaldum.
Read his programme notes in full below…
“Good afternoon and welcome back to Anfield. It’s impossible to overstate how incredible it feels to be able to say those seven simple words. The return of our fans, even in reduced numbers, is something that every single Liverpool player and staff member has pined for during your absence.
“To say that we have missed you doesn’t even come close to doing this situation justice.
“There are many reasons for the success that we have enjoyed in recent seasons and chief among them is the connection that has been forged between players and supporters. Creating that bond has been crucial, so being without it was a big blow.
“I’m not using this as an excuse for those occasions when we have fallen below our own standards – that is on us, as a team – but as a fact it is backed up by a wealth of evidence.
“Everyone points to the ability of the Anfield crowd to inspire the Liverpool team and rightly so. Again, the proof of this has been in the pudding for decades. But what sometimes gets overlooked is our crowd’s knack of giving us a kick up the backside when we need it.
“Every team has moments when it struggles and when that happens you sometimes need a reminder of what is acceptable at a club like this. There is no-one better to deliver that kind of message than supporters who have seen it all.
“I’m hoping there’s no need for that today, of course. We will be playing for a top-four finish, a target that seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago but which has become possible thanks to a brilliant run of form from the lads which has allowed us to go into the last round of fixtures with qualification for the Champions League within our grasp.
“Injury has meant that I have been unable to play my part in this run and that is a big personal frustration, but it has also allowed me to bear witness to a magnificent collective effort which has been built on so many wonderful individual performances that it would be impossible to go through them all in these notes.
“What I will say, though, is every single one of the lads has played their part in getting us back up the table and as captain I massively appreciate that. There’s a lot of talk in football about clubs belonging in certain competitions, but I’ve never bought into that.
“You get what you earn in sport and if we do manage to finish in the top four after the most difficult season I have experienced, no-one will be able to say we haven’t earned it.
“For this to happen, we will need a positive result against Crystal Palace and that won’t be easy. It will also be made harder by the fact that this will be Roy Hodgson’s final game as manager and having played under him with England I know that every single Palace player will be busting a gut in the hope that Roy can go out on a high.
“I’m aware that Roy didn’t have an easy time when he was in charge at Anfield, but no-one in football should be defined by their difficult periods. Over the course of a magnificent career, he has more than earned the respect that he carries.
“If Palace had any other opponent today I would be rooting for them to win for Roy, but obviously I won’t be able to do that today and being a fierce competitor he will understand that better than anyone. No matter what happens, I will wish him well for whatever comes next. The service that he has given to football demands nothing less.
“The situation with Gini Wijnaldum is a bit more complicated as he will shortly be out of contract and that’s an issue for him to resolve one way or another, but it’s clearly possible that today’s game could be his last for Liverpool.
“If it is – and even if it isn’t – everyone who holds this club dear should acknowledge the role that Gini has played in everything that we have achieved in recent seasons. His contribution has been immense and having played alongside him in midfield so many times I know better than most just how much of a difference he has made to us every single time he has worn a red shirt.
“I don’t just respect Gini, I am hugely grateful to him. He is a Premier League winner, a Champions League winner, a UEFA Super Cup winner and a FIFA Club World Cup winner. More than that, he is a wonderful teammate and a magnificent leader. It’s been a privilege to play alongside him.
“I also want to pay tribute to Graham Carter, our long-serving kit man and all-round legend who is set to retire. Graham has been a fixture at Liverpool for so long it is hard to imagine the club without him, so on behalf of all of the lads I would like to thank him for everything he has done for us and wish him well for the future.”