AS Sunderland prepare to come face-to-face with Jordan Henderson at Liverpool tomorrow – Steve Bruce has declared that the big-money sale of the Black Cats academy product could be a blessing in disguise.
Bruce was sad to see a player who rose through the Wearsiders’ ranks to the England squad depart the club in a £19.25m deal this summer – but he has relished the chance to revamp his squad as a result.
The Black Cats travel to Anfield to face Kenny Dalglish’s Reds in tomorrow’s Premier League opener with Bruce’s side likely to feature a number of new faces he has recruited since Henderson left. Bruce has been very busy in the transfer market in the close season with ten players putting pen to paper and moving sticks to the Stadium of Light.
Keiren Westwood, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Sebastian Larsson, Craig Gardner, David Vaughan, Ahmed Elmohamady, Conor Wickham, Ji Dong-Won and James McClean have all arrived at the Stadium of Light.
And, according to Bruce, the fact that they are here is down to Jordan Henderson.
The 21-year-old stunned the red-and-white faithful when he told Bruce that he wanted to turn his back on his home-town club in favour of the new challenge being offered to him at Liverpool.
However, the huge fee pocketed by Sunderland from the sale of the 21-year-old allowed Bruce a stronger hand to go in to the transfer market and strengthen the areas of the team as he saw fit – which given the aforementioned list, shows that he has done so.
Bruce said: “First and foremost we wish the kid (Henderson) well. He’s had a meteoric rise from being a youth team player here to going to play for England to commanding the fee he has.
“I sincerely wish him the best because of the way he is as a boy he’s got an outstanding chance of being a top, top player and sometimes you have to see the bigger picture and realise these things happen and what’s vitally important is that supporters trust that (chairman) Niall (Quinn) and the owner will reinvest the money back into the club to make us stronger.
“Yes, we might have lost an individual, but certainly it’s enabled me to go and get five or six players to add to the squad. That makes us stronger in depth and sometimes you have to look at that. It doesn’t matter who you are or what club you are, sometimes you have to make those decisions.
“I’d have been a lot less active of course and what it’s (Henderson’s sale) enabled us to do is to strengthen. As long as the supporters can see we’ve reinvested the money back in the squad it’s important they’ve got this trust in Niall and his five years in charge they can take a big pat on the back at the progress made.”
While Bruce is clearly wishing his former charge a fine Anfield career after tomorrow’s proceedings, Henderson himself will have a bigger weight on his shoulders than he did at Sunderland given his reputation as one of England’s brightest prospects and certainly, a glance at the famous Anfield trophy room will have left him in no doubt what is expected of him.
However, his former boss is backing him to handle whatever is thrown at him.
Bruce added: “You must remember he’s young but he’s an outstanding talent and it won’t be for the lack of trying he’ll do everything properly he’s a great pro a great lad and he’ll give it everything he’s got so I’d expect him to kick on and be a big hit and big things from him.
“When I spoke to him. Sometimes you can’t deny – I know what I was like as a player when I left Norwich to go to Man U – the boy the opportunity to go and not just financially, but to go and play for one of the big clubs in this country. Sometimes you have to say okay, best of luck and wish him well.”