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Ajax believe Jordan is far from at the Hend of the road
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Dan Fitch
LiveScore
Jordan Henderson is still waiting for his first win in an Ajax shirt
Jordan Henderson is still waiting for his first win in an Ajax shirt

Jordan Henderson is looking to get his career back on track at Ajax after a controversial six-month spell in Saudi Arabia.

But he has stepped out of one difficult situation into another, with the midfielder yet to taste victory in the colours of the fallen Dutch giants.

Ahead of the decisive leg of Ajax's Europa Conference League play-off with Bodo/Glimt, which will be Henderson's fifth appearance for the Eredivisie outfit, we turn the spotlight on his latest uncomfortable predicament.

No margin for error

Ajax receive a huge amount of scrutiny across the Netherlands and former stars often line up to criticise the squad and management when past standards are not met.

Ex-midfielder Rafael van der Vaart did exactly that after the 2-2 home draw with NEC Nijmegen last weekend, delivering a scathing assessment of Henderson and Co.

Ajax failed to pick up enough points to reach the Europa League knockout phase
Ajax failed to pick up enough points to reach the Europa League knockout phase

He said: "Ajax have brought in players with zero quality.

"They have brought in Henderson. All he does is to play a little pass out wide or a little pass back. Nobody will be happy with that.

"As an Ajax man my heart bleeds. I don't know what I can say about them any more."

Despite Henderson's shirt becoming the fastest-selling in the club's history, there is clearly work to be done if he is to win over his critics.

Southgate's safety net

Gareth Southgate has kept Jordan Henderson in his England squad
Gareth Southgate has kept Jordan Henderson in his England squad

To the surprise of many, 33-year-old Henderson was named captain by head coach John van 't Schip for the match against NEC.

Yet that falls in line with England manager Gareth Southgate's view that the former Liverpool man offers leadership off the pitch as well as quality on it.

Rio Ferdinand has also seen through Ajax's run of poor results and outlined the reasons why Henderson should represent his country at Euro 2024.

The former Manchester United and England centre-back, 45, said: "I think Henderson should go. I've got to be honest because I think he brings more than just as a player.

"When you're in a dressing room, you need certain heads there who know how to generate an environment that's conducive to winning.

"He knows how to do that. He's been a captain of a team that has won multiple trophies — there are not too many in that dressing room who know how to do that.

"So we can say, 'I don't think he's good enough', but there's more than just football when it comes to winning things or winning tournaments. There's a mindset."

Young team

Ajax have work to do in the Eredivisie if they are to qualify for Europe next season
Ajax have work to do in the Eredivisie if they are to qualify for Europe next season

Ajax will hope Henderson's winning mindset will help them see off Bodo/Glimt tonight following their 2-2 draw earlier this month.

The Norwegian side went 2-0 up in the first leg before a late flourish in Amsterdam saw Branco van den Boomen net a penalty and Steven Berghuis score a last-gasp equaliser.

Reflecting on the night, Henderson said: "It says a lot about the character of the team to keep going.

"It's a very young team and they're going to make mistakes. We've got to learn from those mistakes as a team."

Some Ajax legends may question why a player coming towards the end of his career was signed in the first place.

But Henderson's role is clear. His job is to guide a young team in transition through a difficult period.

Tonight in Norway, he will be looking to rise to that challenge.

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