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Henderson keeps Irish dream alive with Pompey run

PATIENCE is finally paying off for Irish keeper Stephen Henderson as he's managed to establish himself -- after four years in the shadows.

The 23-year-old will play his third consecutive game for Portsmouth in their Championship tie away to Ipswich Town tonight, with Pompey trying to find a bit of stability after the departure of manager Steve Cotterill to Nottingham Forest last week.

It's been a long time coming for Henderson, who made his debut as a 19-year-old for Bristol City but went on to play just five league games in four seasons at that club.

There's no doubt that goalkeeping is in the blood: his dad (also Stephen) played for a number of League of Ireland sides and managed Waterford United earlier this season; uncle Wayne won seven full Ireland caps before injury forced him to retire earlier this year; another uncle, David, was a LOI stalwart over two decades and was so highly rated early in his career that he kept Packie Bonner out of John Giles' Ireland U21 side; and grandfather Paddy also lined out at League of Ireland level in the 1960s.

Now Stephen is getting his time to shine after a long waiting period, first as a trainee with Aston Villa and then that four-year spell at Bristol City.

"Not much happened for me over the last four years but thankfully Portsmouth has turned around quickly for me and I'm enjoying the run in the team," said Henderson, who kept a clean sheet on his home league debut for Pompey, a 2-0 win over Barnsley on Saturday.

"I'd have preferred if things had kicked on for me earlier but it wasn't to be, hopefully this can be the real start of my career.

"Saturday was great for me, especially as the game was on Sky so all my family got to see the match, and it was brilliant to get a win. We needed the three points given where we are in the table.

"I wasted time at Bristol City. I was looking around the leagues and seeing young keepers get a chance but I never really had a run. So thankfully the move to Portsmouth has gone well.

"Whenever I did get a chance in the Bristol City team I thought I'd done enough to stay in the side but that never happened, and I had to leave in the end. I didn't want to be one of those keepers who spends his career on the bench and I needed to leave.

"This is a huge club, it's not so long ago that Pompey were in the Premier League and the UEFA Cup, and getting back into the Premier League has to be the aim."



Understudy

Henderson, an understudy to David James at Bristol City, had five loan spells away from the club, so leaving last summer for Portsmouth was an easy decision.

The move wasn't all smooth at first, however, as Pompey started the season with Jamie Ashdown as No1 but Henderson was put into the side for their clash with Leeds just before the international break and he's retained his place.

It's early days in the season but so far so good, and next up for the 23-year-old is progress at international level.

"It would be the dream to get there, play for my country," said Henderson, who won his eighth and final U21 cap against Turkey last year.

"I knew all along that I needed to be doing well at club level for anything to happen, if I can stay in the Portsmouth team I'd like to think I have a chance."

Shay Given, 36, said last weekend that he'd assess his Ireland future when the Euro 2012 campaign is over.