Coach hails the Norwich City boy who was ‘a joy to work with’ as he prepares for his big night

Ian Henderson and then first-team coach Steve Foley share a moment during the taking of Norwich City

Ian Henderson and then first-team coach Steve Foley share a moment during the taking of Norwich City's official team photograph at Carrow Road back in 2004. Picture: Archant

Steve Foley remembers it sticking out like a sore thumb – now it has led former Norwich City academy product Ian Henderson to one of the biggest games of his career, as Rochdale head to Wembley for an FA Cup replay date with Tottenham.

The 33-year-old Rochdale forward will step out at Wembley tonight for their FA Cup fifth round replay with Premier League big boys Tottenham Hotspur – almost 11 years since his release by the Canaries.

Foley looked after the Thetford forward's development through Norwich's youth set-up, as well as his step up into the first team while Foley was Nigel Worthington's assistant.

Henderson's senior debut and first goal both came at the age of just 17, while Foley's abiding Henderson memory is exactly why the Dale skipper is now in arguably the most effective form of his life.

'There is one thing I remember and it sticks out like a sore thumb with the boy,' recalled Foley. 'I know it sounds a silly thing and most players should do, but the boy always wanted to play football. He loved it. He had that enthusiasm and you always knew you were going to get 100pc out of him. He was just a joy to work with really.

'He was always going to end up at a decent level. Back then with the size of him, he was a little bit frail. But he made up for it with his energy and obviously he's gone on to do really well and had a good career out of the game.'

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Henderson's senior City breakthrough came a couple of years after another academy forward with a rather 'cocky' streak, had just departed – Craig Bellamy.

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'Ian was one of them where you did have to keep a little bit of an eye on him – he was always a bit of a cheeky chap,' smiled Foley.

'One of the sad bits was his brother Tommy dying in a car accident and that was a terrible time for him, but the strange thing was it didn't seem to affect him when it came to football. I think he lost himself and probably forgot about those things once he was on a pitch.

'Ian would give it the verbals but he'd do it in a funny way, taking the mick out of them or whatever. But he was controllable.

'I think most good players have got a little bit of edge about them. Craig was a classic example, but it didn't affect him. He learned from it and actually grew with it. It will probably stand him in good stead when he does get his first management job.

'Ian and Craig, they both stood out through their enjoyment of wanting to play football. A normal person will say, well don't they all want to play? And obviously they do – but once they go out there you do question one or two.

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'You think, you want to play son but you're not showing me. You're not showing for the ball, you're not closing down. I could go on and on. And that's it. I think you've got to love the game to be that little bit different.'

Henderson's journey since his six years, 78 appearances and six goals at City took in Northampton, Luton, Colchester and even Turkey – before he settled down in Greater Manchester.

But despite all he has seen, Foley reckons the butterflies will be going ahead of tonight.

'I bet he won't sleep the night before,' he added. 'All those years he's done the work, and now he's got that big chance. Good luck to him.

'Obviously Spurs will probably win but I think they will give a good account of themselves because they've worked really hard to get there.'

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