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Home-grown Henderson locks horns with Wilshere
Published : 18 Sep 2010 09:43:11
WHEN Sunderland take on Arsenal this afternoon, a future England stalwart might well be appearing at the heart of midfield. Despite his recent debut against Hungary, however, his name is not necessarily Jack Wilshere. While Wilshere has been hitting the headlines this season thanks to a string of impressive displays that culminated in Wednesday's stellar Champions League showing against Braga, Sunderland's Jordan Henderson has continued his own development in the Black Cats' first team with neither fanfare nor fuss. The 20-year-old might have made his England Under-21 debut in last month's friendly with Uzbekistan, but although the likes of Wilshere, Jack Rodwell and Kieran Gibbs have been touted as senior stars of the future, few have mentioned the Sunderland- born youngster as a contender for full international honours. Steve Bruce is not unduly perturbed by the lack of interest in Henderson, knowing it can often help a young player to be hidden from the limelight in the early stage of his career. But with today's game providing an ideal opportunity to compare the Wearsider with the highly-rated Wilshere, the Black Cats boss admits Henderson deserves a greater share of the plaudits than he has been afforded so far this season. I think it's fair to say that Jordan sometimes doesn't get the headlines or the recognition he deserves, said Bruce. Maybe that has something to do with where we are geographically, I don't know. He's certainly got the attention of the England Under- 21 people with his recent performance in Portugal, he was outstanding. There's a clamour for the likes of Wilshere to be fasttracked into the national team, but I suppose that goes with the territory of playing for Arsenal. Jordan doesn't have to worry himself about all of that. Instead, the Academy product has been instructed to maintain the form that enabled him to make 38 senior appearances last season, his first as a fully-fledged member of the first-team squad. Given that he had only made one Premier League substitute appearance prior to Bruce replacing Ricky Sbragia as manager in the summer of the 2009, Henderson's progress in the last 15 months has been remarkable. He displayed maturity beyond his years last season, but with so many other talented youngsters having faltered in their second season in the senior ranks, there was a fear his form could dip once the novelty of his new-found status wore off. The dreaded second-season syndrome' is still a concern, but if the evidence of last weekend's 1-1 draw at Wigan is anything to go by, Henderson's form is continuing to improve rather than beginning to tail off. There was a worry about it being his second season in the team, said Bruce. People will always tell you that, when you start off, you're full of adrenaline. As a result, it's your second season that you find the hardest. But his performance last week against Wigan in particular was fantastic. He's been the biggest surprise of my time here. He's a delight of a boy. I know for a fact he'll never let me down, and I know for a fact he'll never get in any trouble off the pitch. He's that type of person, and that's credit to his family and him. All he wants to do is play football, which in this age, is pleasing to see. While Henderson has never given Bruce cause for concern during his time on Wearside, the same is not true of teammate Anton Ferdinand. Bruce clashed with the centre- half on a number of occasions earlier this summer, and the pair looked certain to go their separate ways when a provisional deal was agreed with Italian side Palermo. The move collapsed, however, and Ferdinand is currently in the process of rebuilding his career at the Stadium of Light, something Bruce feels he is accomplishing with commendable success. A row's a row, but I left it up to him really, said the Sunderland boss. He came back and apologised, and I put him in the team, simple as that. I thought maybe his time was up, but for whatever reason, his move to Italy didn't happen. He came back, apologised to everybody and found himself back in the team. His last two performances have been great and he will play against Arsenal. Maybe he likes confrontation rather than people saying how well he has done. It's certainly looked that way because these last two games have been the best I've seen him play for the 15 months I've been here. He's certainly got the bit between his teeth and he's risen to the challenge. Maybe we'll have another row. Maybe another kick up the arse will be just what he needs.