Henderson: Should Sunderland Sell?
In the late hours of Tuesday night, some potentially sensational news began to surface out of Merseyside. This news was that Liverpool had begun their quest to sign Sunderland's dynamic young midfielder Jordan Henderson. Henderson's stock in the league is high at the moment, with a number of high-profile clubs, including Man United, monitoring Henderson's performances. Bruce and Quinn themselves have already admitted they are resigned to losing Henderson at some stage. But, with the Sunderland faithful still reeling from the loss of Darren Bent five months ago, would selling Henderson now be a step too far for the Sunderland hierarchy?
Obviously, one of the main factors in the whole situation are the buyers themselves. Liverpool, undoubtedly one of the biggest clubs in Europe, have had somewhat of a fall from grace in past years. Their status as the league's "untouchables" has been eradicated with the club currently enduring a long trophy-less spell. However, in the second half of last season, buoyed by the arrival of ambitious new owners and under the leadership of Kop legend Kenny Dalglish, they have had somewhat a revival. The over-inflated 35 million pound capture of Andy Carroll showed that they would pay almost anything to get their man. And this "name your price" mentality could play into Sunderland's hands. Sunderland should be looking for over 20 million for Liverpool to prize Henderson away. Henderson is undoubtedly one of the country's top prospects: He has a superb work-rate, is pacy, is an excellent passer, and with time, could develop into a goalscorer. At the moment, he is the nearest English prospect to Steven Gerrard, and for these reasons if Sunderland are to sell, they must ensure they negotiate a big money deal for Henderson.
Even if the offer is too good to refuse, the club will have to look at what damage the deal could do internally. Sure, every player has his price, but selling Bent and Henderson, the two prized assets, in quick succession could send out the wrong message to the fans. Most fans understand the Bent situation, but selling Henderson (a local lad who surely would not force the club's hand like Bent did) so soon after his first-team breakthrough would surely anger the faithful. The fans often get frustrated with Henderson, but this only underlines their extremely high expectations of him. Sunderland may wait years for another Henderson to come through the ranks, and the sale of him would lead to questions about the ambition of the club. In addition, with Sunderland already losing 7 squad players due to contract or loan expirations it would further trim the already wafer thing squad and hardly reinforces Bruce's message of needing to improve the depth of the squad this summer.
However, what could tip the balance is the continuing presence of Alex Ferguson. It's a well-known fact that Ferguson is a fan of Henderson, sending scouts to monitor Henderson and getting into contact with Bruce about the player. It is also well-known that Henderson's dream deal is a move to Old Trafford. Obviously, it will be flattering being linked with a big money move at his young age. But, is a move to his dream club's arch rivals really what he wants? Ferguson will undoubtedly come knocking in summers to come, so why not wait for the move the player wants and allow Henderson to fulfil more of his undoubted potential at Sunderland? It is surely an attractive prospect to the management.
Whatever decision the club makes will surely be looked on with intrigue. Henderson will certainly develop into a quality player, but the club has to be very careful to pick the right deal for the club, both financially and reputation wise. Sunderland still hold all the cards, but whether they choose to sell Henderson to the red's on Merseyside, wait for a deal with the red's on Manchester or keep Henderson and build around him will surely have a huge impact on the future of Sunderland.