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Henderson: Ireland snub is 'a hard pill to swallow'

IN FORM at club level but out in the cold with the international team.

That's the lot of Irish keeper Stephen Henderson, an impressive performer for a promotion-chasing Charlton side this season. who says he's at a loss to explain his exclusion from an Ireland squad which is regularly jam-packed with goalkeepers.

Henderson is one of our best-performing keepers in Britain this season but there's no room for the Charlton man in the Ireland squad and the 26-year-old remains uncapped at senior level, despite a couple of squad call-ups in the past.

The former Portsmouth and West Ham man says he has no issue with Shay Given, 38, earning another cap against the USA in midweek but he finds his own omission from even the squad hard to take.

"When keepers who aren't playing for their clubs get a call up and another Irish keeper who is playing every week in a very good league, it's a hard pill to swallow," Henderson (above) told The Herald.

"Shay Given is a legend and from what I have been told of the USA game he did the business for Ireland again that night.

"But I just feel hard done-by when five keepers are called in and I don't seem to have a sniff. You tell yourself to keep the head down and keep working hard but still, you are way down the ladder with your country and there's not much more I can do, only the Ireland manager can answer that for me.

"Even going back to the Trapattoni era, when I was playing my best football for Portsmouth, I wasn't getting a look-in there, and the only reason I did get a call-up was due to injuries.

"Two-three years down the line it's the same thing. I am pretty happy with how I am playing at the minute but the Ireland manager has called in five keepers recently, you had a young lad (Ian Lawlor) called in over the summer and I am scratching my head in terms of what I have to do to get in there. It makes me wonder what more I can do," he added.

"At the club it's got to a stage where my goalkeeping coach can't understand it. He talks about maybe ringing up the FAI but I don't see the point, it's their opinion at the moment and I have to accept that, but it's not easy. Every time an international comes around I know there's no hope as nothing seems to change," added Henderson, who has enjoyed success and first-team football at the Valley this season since he opted to leave behind a lucrative contract at West Ham where he was third-choice.

"My form with the club is good and a lot of things are going right for me. I had to get out of West Ham and find a club where I could play every week. I could have stayed there (at West Ham) to see out my contract and just pick up the wages every week but that was the unhappiest I have been in my career.

"I missed a lot of football over the last two years but a lot of things are coming into place at the moment," he says. "All I can hope for is a chance with Ireland, I have dreamed of playing for my country since I was a boy and I just hope the chance comes for me before it's too late," Henderson added as he prepares to face up to David Forde in the Championship on Saturday.