There are myriad reasons supporters fall for a player (non romantically, of course). Perhaps their talent is so overwhelming that they can't be missed. Sometimes it's the opposite, where a player's lack of talent is made up for by unfathomable effort, otherwise known as "Carragher-ing" it. That's slightly more of a personal connection, because we can't imagine having world class talent but we can sort of squint real hard and see ourselves giving it everything we have to play for the club we love (except if we all could, we all would. And that's not to say Carragher or his ilk weren't talented, because they'd dust you and me, but comparatively).
And then there's who are somewhere in the middle, but overcome scorn and skepticism to become indispensable to the club. Funny, one seems to be on the way out, or did until Monday, while one just took Steven Gerrard's #4 shirt for England.
You'll recall that Lucas's first foray into the first team under Rafa Benitez was not exactly embraced by the masses. I recall him being booed off the field on occasion, in fact. We didn't really know that he was an attacking midfielder that Rafa was trying to shape into a holding one, much less adjust to a new league and culture. We just saw someone who didn't have much of a touch even though he was Brazilian and couldn't complete a pass if he were offered a lifetime supply of booze for it. I remember calling my brother once and blaming Lucas for everything from the latest loss to my receding hairline.
I now own a #21 Liverpool shirt. Lucas just put his head down, kept working, and toward the end of the Hodgson disaster and then the Dalglish interlude, he was probably Liverpool's most consistent midfielder. Brendan Rodgers's first season hit a major speed bump when Lucas was hurt in the home opener, forcing Joe Allen to play every game as the deepest midfielder. Lucas has never really recovered, and even though he remained through the transfer deadline, he could still go in January or next year. But I hope not, because we've been through too much already. And someone has to keep Coutinho entertained.
Which brings us to Jordan Henderson. People scoffed at the pricetag and he arrived in the tides of mediocrity that Dalglish brought in (the names of Downing and Adam still send me into cold sweats). Even though my close friend who is a Sunderland supporter assured me Hendo would be a real player, we all were skeptical. His work-rate was easy to point out, and you saw that he was making all the right runs and was just around anything that was happening. He just wasn't causing it to happen. He was even wanted out by the manager, but stayed, determined to win his place.
Now look at him. Last season's mini-collapse (if taking 37 of the last 42 points can be considered a collapse) coincided with Henderson's suspension, and no one watched that Chelsea match and didn't wonder how it would have looked if Henderson was making his late runs into the box, if only just to occupy another defender. Discussions of how to shape the team to accommodate the strikers and attacking midfielders never include the suggestion of dropping Henderson. No matter the formation, he seems to be the link between Gerrard and the front two or three or four or however it shapes up. He is basically the bridge.
It's strange to think it all happened within about two seasons. And those are the types of players that win your heart the most. Because we've all been down, and we've all dreamed of shoving it up our doubters' and critics' ass. Not all of us get to. But we love those who do.