From Thetford to Wembley, via Norwich City - it's been quite a ride for Ian Henderson
"He's a determined lad and if you ask him to do something then he'll throw himself into it 100pc, sometimes 110pc. As a result you don't always get the right result, but it won't ever be for the want of trying."
Nigel Worthington describing Ian Henderson back in November, 2003 when the youngster (he was then 18) from Thetford was making a major impact on Norwich City’s first team.
An England youth international, Henderson was on a run of three goals in two games, keeping Mark Rivers on the subs’ bench. The future looked bright, but after almost 80 first team appearances, Henderson left for Northampton in July 2007.
After a fine career in the bottom two divisions, ‘Hendo’ now finds himself in the national spotlight after helping Rochdale – where he has been part of the furniture for the past five years – to an FA Cup fifth round replay against Spurs at Wembley, having scored against them in a 2-2 draw on Sunday.
There’s something fitting about Henderson being cast in the role of giant-killer: at City his shirt hung off his 5ft 8in frame, he had a sparkle in his eyes that spoke of wilder moments, and a trick or two in his boots that perhaps didn’t suit his manager of the time.
It wasn’t easy for him at City: brother Tommy was tragically killed in a car crash in December 2000. Ian never sought it as an excuse for anything: it was rarely mentioned, but for the player himself, the memory is a constant inspiration.
Now 33, he can look back on a career of more than 400 games, a goal in every four of them – and a story too. Before Keith Hill asked him to join Rochdale, Henderson was considering a career as a dentist. And he learned a bit about the legal profession during a short and not so sweet spell playing for Ankaragucu in Turkey where his contract wasn’t as watertight as he hoped and he was offered bags of cash to leave.
In his days at City you felt he was more likely to pull someone’s leg than teeth, but he was a young man then.
Time has changed him: there’s still a footballing twinkle in the eye and when, as skipper, he leads Rochdale out at Wembley next week, there will be personal, private thoughts in his mind gathered over more than a decade and a half in the game. There may have been ups and downs on the way, but Ian Henderson is solid footballing stock, a player who deserves a big day out.