Northern Ireland goalkeeper Trevor Carson has hailed the 'incredible dedication and determination' of his former team-mate Jordan Henderson, who has captained Liverpool to the brink of their first league title in 30 years.
Carson and Henderson became friends as young players coming through the ranks at Sunderland when they dreamed of hitting the big time.
The future England star gave the Killyleagh native lifts to training every day, with Carson declaring that Henderson was 'the nicest boy you could wish to meet'.
Career paths for the pair differed with Carson having a number of loan spells away from Sunderland before signing for Bury, Cheltenham and Hartlepool. Three years ago, he joined Motherwell where he has become a favourite with the fans.
In contrast, Henderson landed a big move to Liverpool in 2011. Four years later, following the departure of the legendary Steven Gerrard, the midfielder was made captain of the club by Ulsterman Brendan Rodgers.
For much of his Anfield career, Henderson (29) has had to shake off doubts that he could cut it with the Reds but latterly he has proved how important and influential he is to Jurgen Klopp's side, leading Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2019 and a stunning Premier League campaign this term.
With Liverpool 25 points clear at the top of the table, football is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic but few would argue that Henderson doesn't deserve to lift the Premier League trophy at some point later this year.
Carson (32) appreciates the midfielder has come a long way since their Sunderland days and has been overjoyed to watch his pal's progress.
"Jordan was a little bit younger than me but we played in the reserves together. I loved Jordan. I was lazy when I was younger and didn't pass my driving test until I was 21 and he used to come out of his way every day and pick me up. He was the nicest boy you could meet," said the Northern Ireland ace.
"Jordan's attitude at Sunderland was top class. To be honest, I don't think I have ever seen anyone with a better attitude in football. He is also an exceptional player.
"Roy Keane was the Sunderland manager when we were both there and he used to point out that Jordan was never in the losing side in five-a-side games. He was just a winner, even starting out. That was his mentality then and still is. I am delighted for him that he is enjoying so much success at Liverpool."
In a fascinating insight into Henderson's mindset in his youth, Carson revealed how the Anfield hero went home early on team nights out to ensure he was always in peak physical condition.
"You hear about lads who don't drink. Well, Jordan wouldn't even go into a nightclub back then," recalled Carson.
"If the lads were going on a team night out, he would come to the pub and sit with us until about 10 o'clock and then when we all went on to a nightclub he would go home.
"He would say it was alright not drinking but if you were staying up to three or four in the morning it would still affect you. The lads used to hammer him for it but he didn't care because he was totally dedicated to his football. That's why he is doing what he is now while some of the boys in that team aren't involved in football."
Carson added: "Jordan was playing in the Premier League week in, week out at Sunderland and he was on maybe a couple of grand per week when there were boys sitting on the bench at £40,000 and £50,000 grand per week.
"When you are a young lad coming through the ranks at a club, I wouldn't say you are punished but foreign players would come in on silly money and the local lads would not get that.
"That would bother other young lads coming through but it didn't bother Jordan. Kevin Ball (former Sunderland player and academy coach) tells a story about Jordan at 15. They were going to release him as a young lad coming through because he was never a stand out in his age group but Bally was one for attitude, discipline and desire and he saw something in Jordan in how he trained.
"Even at that age he was an animal and doing extra work. They would be dragging him off the pitch. There was a big debate whether to give him his scholarship when he turned 16 but Bally wanted him because of his attitude. Jordan's life was about football. His dedication was incredible and he had such great determination.
"Every day in training, Jordan was fantastic. In his first few days training with the first team he would be screaming at players who had been in the game for years and bossing them about. He was that type of character. He wanted to win and didn't care who you were. If you needed telling he would do it."
Speaking about what Henderson has achieved at Liverpool, Carson stated: "I remember some Liverpool fans were surprised when they paid £18m to Sunderland for Jordan but I always knew it would prove to be a bargain.
"There was a time when Jordan was close to leaving Liverpool as part of a deal that would have taken Fulham's Clint Dempsey the other way. Many players would have thought, 'I am on big money now so I will go to Fulham and take away the pressure that comes with playing for Liverpool' but he backed himself to stay and what a decision that was.
"Any time questions have been asked of him he has come up trumps. It is a credit to him.
"I am glad people are finally seeing what he brings from a technical side as well as his energy. He is everything you want in a footballer. He works hard, he is a winner and he has great ability.
"Jordan is playing with some of the best players in the world and he is the guy who sets the tempo.
"After Liverpool won the Champions League final last season he had that emotional moment with his dad who has had a tough time with health issues. I watched that YouTube clip with his father about 30 times and I was welling up because that would have meant so much to both of them.
"At Sunderland, Jordan had great support from his mum and dad and I am so pleased for him and his family at how his career has progressed because they are such good people."