Henderson up for derby clash

In seven years Ian Henderson has been a Premier League super sub, a League Two languisher and an exotic foreign signing. STUART WATSON spoke to Colchester United's latest signing about his Turkish turmoil and how a cheeky phone call has transformed him into an enemy of his boyhood club.

Stuart Watson

In seven years Ian Henderson has been a Premier League super sub, a League Two languisher and an exotic foreign signing. STUART WATSON spoke to Colchester United's latest signing about his Turkish turmoil and how a cheeky phone call has transformed him into an enemy of his boyhood club.

A LOT can happen in seven years - just ask Ian Henderson.

When the Norfolk-born footballer joined Norwich City at the tender age of eight years old, his proud family could have had no comprehension of what was to follow.

A debutant in the Championship at the age of 17 years, eight months and 29 days, the versatile midfielder/striker quickly endeared himself to the Carrow Road faithful with a goal at Wimbledon just 10 days later.

Little did he know that - before he'd even hit his mid-twenties - a rollercoaster start to his career would see him play at every level of the Football League, represent England's Under-20s, spend a brief period in Turkey, before returning full circle to Norwich in an attempt to start again.

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Henderson hasn't resigned for his boyhood Canaries though - he's preparing to face them.

So, having signed for Turkish Super Lig side Ankaragucu just last June, how has he ended up at Colchester?

“It's a long story!” admits the 24-year-old, rather understatedly.

As way of recent background, Henderson found himself without a free agent at the end of last season after his employers Luton Town were relegated from the Football League and subsequently were forced to cut back on their wage budget.

Strangely a move to Turkish top-flight side Ankaragucu followed after Henderson's partner's father (who is Turkish) helped set up the deal.

To start with the move went well. Henderson was able to settle in with fellow English recruit Darius Vassell, quickly picked up some basic Turkish and, although he wasn't starting games, he was regularly used in a variety of roles from the bench.

Kept up so far? Good, then I'll let Henderson take up the story.

“Things were going well, but in September last year things changed. It's complicated, but basically there are two rival teams in Ankaragucu and the president of one left to join the other.

“The new president didn't see me as a player he wanted and, by the end of the month, I had left by mutual consent.”

As a result, for the second time in under four months, Henderson found himself at a major career crossroads.

So who was the first person he picked up the phone to? His former youth team coach at Norwich City - a certain Mr Aidy Boothroyd.

“I gave him a ring and just asked if I could come and train with Colchester,” said Henderson.

“I knew I had to wait until January before I could sign for anybody and I wanted to keep myself fit for those six or seven weeks.

“He invited me down and I must have impressed because he has ended up offering me a contract.

“I always had a lot of self-confidence and belief in myself that I would find myself another club quickly enough.”

Colchester boss Boothroyd has described the move as a chance for Henderson to kick-start his career following a difficult period, but Henderson has no regrets about the path he's taken so far.

He's gone from playing against Chelsea and Manchester City for Norwich in the Premier League, to playing League One football with Rotherham and Northampton, to finishing bottom of the Football League with Luton Town.

Now Henderson wants to put all that behind him, as well as his Turkish turmoil, to start all over again with Colchester.

“I don't regret going to Northampton, Luton or Turkey. I feel like I've developed as a footballer, but most of all a person. I feel like I can deal with a lot more psychologically now.

“Now I'm just really excited about joining Colchester because you only need to look at the manager they've recruited and where they are in the league to see where they are going.”

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THERE's no doubting where Ian Henderson's loyalties lie ahead of this Saturday's East Anglian derby.

The 24-year-old joined Norwich as an eight-year-old and featured in the Canaries side for the first five seasons of his professional career.

But the versatile midfielder/striker is a Colchester player now and - even though he is temporarily living back in Norwich with friends - he says there will be no room for sentiment if he features against his boyhood club at the weekend.

“There will be no mixed feelings,” says Henderson, matter-of-factly, when asked about his potential U's debut against the Canaries.

“Yes, I was there from eight years old until I was 22 and that's a long part of my life. Norwich is where I learned how to play and I've said publically before how much gratitude I've got for the role they've played in my career.

“However, I'm starting a new chapter of my life now and that's at Colchester.”

Henderson's Colchester move came after he put in a call to his former youth team boss at Norwich - Aidy Boothroyd - and asked if he could train with the U's in order to maintain fitness.

Boothroyd accepted and was so impressed with the former England Under-20 player that he made him his first U's signing from outside the Premier League or Championship.

The Colchester boss has described Henderson as 'versatile', 'tenacious' and 'horrible to play against', but the 24-year-old is keen to emphasise he can play a bit too.

“I wouldn't disagree with the manager's description of me,” he said. “In Turkey I played right-back, in every midfield diamond role and also up front. I don't care where I'm picked to play, I just give 100%.

“I work hard on the pitch, but I wouldn't categorise myself as purely that sort of player. I back myself technically as well.”

- Colchester United's postponed trip to Yeovil has now been rearranged for Tuesday, February 16. The game, which was called off last Saturday due to the snow, will come just three days after a trip to Stockport. The U's now potentially face eight games in the next four weeks.

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