Stuart Pearce has conceded Jordan Henderson was 'on his knees' when playing for England at the European Under 21 Championship in the summer.
Henderson has been handed the captain's armband for England's bid to qualify for the 2013 tournament after struggling to make an impression during this year's competition in Denmark.
He failed to replicate the form which had earned the midfielder a move to Liverpool from Sunderland, and Pearce believes it was due to fatigue.
Arsenal's Jack Wilshere missed the tournament due to injury, but prior to that there had been concerns raised by his club boss Arsene Wenger regarding the potential for burn-out.
Under 21 coach Pearce, whose side thrashed Azerbaijan 6-0 on Thursday, admits Henderson was running on empty by the end of England's involvement at the finals.
"He captained the side well,' said Pearce regarding Henderson's performance against Azerbaijan, which included a goal.
"He will be a great talent for the future. But we have to nurture everyone in this squad.
"The one thing that did affect him (in Denmark) was the season. A lot was said about Jack Wilshere and his condition.
"But Jordan Henderson was the one player that we realised at the end of the season was flat.
"He took the move to Liverpool in his stride. But he was physically on his knees come the summer, if I'm being quite honest, and that was the only distraction for him.
"I thought he had a decent tournament but come the last group game he ran out of gas."