Jordan Henderson’s name has been added to the list of North East stars who have moved at the peak of their powers. Mark Douglas reports on the return of a worrying trend
ONCE again, you can construct a formidable argument that it makes business sense.
Around £16million for a player who was barely worth his place in the Sunderland team during their spring collapse, who has less than 100 Premier League appearances and is yet to convince that he can add a sustained goal threat to his game sounds like a fine price.
A deal, really, that Sunderland, with a squad in desperate need of rebuilding, could ill afford to turn down.
But it is what Jordan Henderson’s move to Liverpool says about the North East’s standing in the English game that should really trouble any follower of the sport in these parts.
Henderson is only the latest glittering talent to be exported from the region, but he is far from alone on an illustrious list. Ripped from us in their prime were the likes of Colin Todd, Dave Watson, Dennis Tueart, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, Peter Beardsley, Alan Kennedy and, just five months ago, Andy Carroll. And that is just the homegrown players. Few will have forgotten that Darren Bent was smuggled away by Aston Villa in January to add to a list of adopted stars on the move that includes Middlesbrough’s Graeme Souness and one-time Newcastle midfielder Terry McDermott.
The talent tap was cut off for a brief period during the 1990s when Newcastle, buoyed by Sir John Hall’s bold vision, became the nation’s Entertainers and Sunderland enjoyed the first flushes of success following their move to the Stadium of Light.
But Henderson’s departure confirms the return of an unwritten rule of North East football – we will not be able to hold onto our best players.
It is a curious development that may be rammed down our throats further in the coming weeks of a febrile transfer window.
José Enríque will depart if a club comes up with a package that appeals, while Lee Cattermole – watched four times by those predatory Reds in the final weeks of the season – remains vulnerable, especially with a release clause in his contract.
If Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan were stripped from St James’ Park too, it would leave us with a dearth of charismatic personalities in an area that has thrived on them over the years. No doubt that band of nay-sayers who seem to revel in sneering at the North East clubs will argue that the region is nothing special. That all mid-table teams are left vulnerable when the likes of Liverpool – without European football next year but with a rich heritage and ambitious, deep-pocketed owners – come knocking at their door.