The Monday Profile: Ian Henderson

Posted by on May 16, 2011 in The Monday Profile | 4 Comments
Being dubbed a young player with promise is sometimes the cruellest thing that can happen to a footballer. As contemporaries in the Norwich City youth set-up a decade ago, Ian Henderson and Ryan Jarvis made their first team debuts within six months of each other. In November 2002, Henderson scored as a substitute in his second Canaries appearance. Jarvis, the more precocious of the pair, was the star striker of England’s U17 side when he became City’s then youngest ever first team player in April 2003. A year later, although they were still only on the fringes of the first eleven, both teenagers were Premier League players as Norwich won promotion.

Fast forward to 2011 and Jarvis, having been released by Norwich in 2008, has just left Leyton Orient on a free after three years in east London brought him a mere 14 goals. Still only 24, where the player goes from here is unclear but he can still boast of a goal against Liverpool the season Rafa Benà­tez’s side won the Champions League. Meanwhile, after many setbacks of his own, Henderson has this season enjoyed the best period of his professional career. Two goals for Colchester United against Bristol Rovers in the final game of the campaign put the 26-year-old on double figures and left Henderson as the club’s top scorer in League One.

Until this season, Henderson’s career had been blighted by bad luck and poor timing almost ever since its promising beginning. Persistently finding players selected ahead of him on the wing and in attack, Henderson’s problems were compounded by a few injury issues and ultimately his time as a Canary was brought to an end in 2007. Between leaving Norwich and arriving at Colchester, Norfolk-born Henderson had unremarkable spells with Rotherham United and Northampton Town before two equally ill-fated periods — albeit for different reasons — with Luton Town and MKE Ankaragücü of the Turkish Süper Lig.

In December 2008 Henderson found himself without a club after Northampton Town released him from his contract six months early. The following month he joined Luton’s condemned campaign at the foot of League Two. With the Hatters having had a 30-point penalty inflicted upon them at the start of the season by the Football Association for numerous financial irregularities, relegation to the Conference had been all but confirmed the moment Luton lost their appeal against the decision. Henderson played eighteen times between January and May, scoring his first goal in just under two years when he netted against Dagenham & Redbridge. Luton did not renew his short-term deal at the end of the season, however, as Henderson tumbled from being a Premier League player in 2005 to one perhaps heading out of the professional game just four years later.

With his options in the Football League seemingly exhausted, Turkish top flight side MKE Ankaragücü approached Henderson with the offer of a trial. He subsequently signed a two-year deal but ultimately spent just three months in Ankara, playing only twice. A failure to settle was cited as the reason even though he had family with him in the country and a Turkish girlfriend, as this article on Les Rosbifs reports. Henderson had been joined at the club by Darius Vassell, who remained at Ankaragücü until the end of the season and managed four goals in 25 appearances. Given that the club’s financial problems notoriously resulted in Vassell’s hotel bill going unpaid, any swift reservations Henderson had about the move were probably well-founded.

His transfer overseas proving not such a Turkish delight, it was Henderson’s former mentor who offered him a way out. Aidy Boothroyd, the youth team coach at Norwich from 2001 to 2003, had been appointed the Colchester United manager a few weeks earlier after the former incumbent, Paul Lambert, switched to Carrow Road, and in October 2009 Henderson began training with the Essex club. If the circumstances surrounding the player’s move already had a couple of Canaries connections, the hat-trick came in the form of the opposition for his debut in January. Norwich were the visitors to the Weston Homes Community Stadium, the clubs’ first meeting since Colchester won 7-1 at Carrow Road the previous August and Lambert promptly jumped ship. The row between the respective boards had yet to be resolved financially and, with relations tense, a crowd of over 10,000 watched as the side managed by Colchester’s former boss routed his old team 5-0. To complete Henderson’s misery, he was sent-off in injury time.

Failing to guide Colchester into the play-offs that season, Boothroyd left to take over at Coventry City. He was replaced by his assistant, John Ward, and it has been under his tutelage that Henderson has enjoyed undoubtedly the best year of his career. A total of 11 goals from 42 appearances in all competitions represents a huge improvement for a player whose previous best was four strikes for Norwich in 2003/04, all scored during a purple patch in November. After his low point of 2009, it is heartening to see how Henderson has fought back to establish himself in League One. His former teammate Ryan Jarvis will no doubt be hoping to follow his example.

You can read more by William Abbs over at Saha From The Madding Crowd.

William Abbs
is a Manchester United fan but don't blame him, blame Rupert Murdoch and Mark Hughes. No sooner could he kick a ball than he was trying to dribble like Andrei Kanchelskis. Born and raised in Norwich, however, he still takes an interest in events at Carrow Road as well as the rest of the league pyramid. In 2010 he moved to London with the words of Alan Partridge ringing in his ears, asserting that he would either be mugged or not appreciated. He resides on Twitter as @WilliamAbbs.


  1. John McGee
    May 16, 2011

    This post seems to suggest John Ward doing something positive. I can't be on with that sorry.

  2. William Abbs
    May 16, 2011

    Sorry John. If it's any consolation, however pleased I am for Henderson that he's enjoying a better time of it, I hardly expect that happy chapter to be gilding Ward's Wikipedia profile any time soon.

  3. Lloyd
    May 17, 2011

    Great post Will. Rare thst a player experiences so many setbacks before bouncing back. Credit to Henderson.

  4. William Abbs
    May 17, 2011

    Thanks Lloyd. I very nearly referred to bouncing back in the article but, what with the Norwich connection, it just seemed too much of a Partridge-ism.


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