JORDAN Henderson is determined to fight for his place as the challenge of holding down a place in Liverpool’s midfield becomes increasingly tough.
There were times last year when the Wearsider’s days at Anfield appeared to be numbered.
Within a couple of months of manager Brendan Rodgers arriving, the midfielder was offered to Fulham as part of a failed bid to sign Clint Dempsey.
Henderson rejected the switch, knuckled down and has found his reward on the pitch having been named in the starting line-up for Liverpool’s opening-day win over Stoke at the weekend.
“It is always nice to play, I am sure that is the same for everyone,” said the 23-year-old.
“But we are a squad and there will be times when other people come in and I have to keep fighting for my place and hopefully stay in the team.
“The most important thing in your first game of the season at home is to win the game and that is what we got.”
Liverpool could have beaten Stoke at a canter – Henderson himself could have had at least two, once only being denied by the fingertips of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic who diverted the ball onto a post.
The midfielder admits they have to be more ruthless in front of goal if they are to stand a chance of breaking back into the top four, especially with last season’s 30-goal striker Luis Suarez suspended until the end of September.
But he also paid tribute to fellow Sunderland old boy, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who saved a late penalty. Henderson believes Mignolet is more than capable of filling the void left by fans’ favourite Jose Reina, who was loaned out to Napoli very soon after the Belgian arrived at Anfield this summer.
“We had a lot of chances and we should probably have put it to bed a lot earlier but it wasn’t to be and the most important thing was to win the game,” he added.
“I thought Simon was brilliant with two brilliant saves at the penalty and the follow-up after that. That was magnificent.
“He was brilliant at Sunderland when I was there and he has been brilliant since he came into the club and he will get stronger and stronger and he will be fantastic for Liverpool.
“It is a good way to announce yourself at Liverpool.
“Pepe (Reina) was unbelievable in his time here and Simon (pictured, left) has come in and been fantastic and I think he will be a really good signing for us.”
Henderson also praised another new arrival Kolo Toure, who has slotted into the back four to replace the recently retired Jamie Carragher.
“I thought he was brilliant. He has come in and is a real leader,” he said.
“He is talking all the time on and off the field and he has a lot of experience which helps the whole team.”
Last season it took Liverpool until late September to register their first league win so with three points already on the board, Henderson believes they can move on with increased confidence.
“We wanted to start the season well and from our first win hopefully we can kick on and do well against Villa next week,” he said.
“It is a good start, first game, first win and I think we played quite well at times. Hopefully we can build on it.
“It is a good start but there is a long way to go.”
H Fulham yesterday signed England midfielder Scott Parker from Tottenham on a three-year deal.