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Hooray for Henderson! 30/07/2007

Posted by Ian Grant in Thoughts about things.

Y’know, football doesn’t often gladden the heart these days. Or it doesn’t often gladden my heart, anyway…and, yeah, I know that’s probably because I’m getting old and stuff. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that wasn’t actually better in my day. So there, sonny.

So, here I was, all ready to pen a tribute to Big Doris on his transfer to Preston, an open secret for a wearisome eternity. Frankly, it would’ve been damn hard to avoid criticising the manager in the process: we’ve spent far too long watching somewhat forlorn attempts to catch the eye of a passing striker over the last couple of years. This time, we seem to have compounded the problem by (nearly) off-loading key players before signing replacements…and then, rather comically and entirely transparently, attempting to repair the damage (“The more time goes on the more I’m looking to keep him”). One is tempted to refer to “twenty-first century man management”, an oft-used phrase two-and-a-bit years ago, but one is aware that it would be a little churlish. And, more importantly, that those comical and transparent attempts might have succeeded.

Thank heavens, I say, that Darius Henderson will be a Watford player next season. Thank heavens, because we’re going to need him. It’s not just about his strength of character, although few players could have stood so tall, proud and unbowed in last season’s difficult circumstances. For me, that made him the player of the season: not the best player of the season, sure, but the one who characterised the struggle at the heart of it and the little that I’ll remember fondly. Others would simply have crumbled. Have simply crumbled. Doris was right there, whenever we needed him. Right there, right to the end.

But it’s not just about that. It’s about the player. Because I don’t care what style of football we’ll be playing next season; at some point, probably when the rain comes and our pitch disintegrates again and Burnley come to visit and we remember what the Second Division is really like, there will be absolutely no substitute for a hulking great big centre forward who can knock people around, flick things on, get stuck in. If that hulking great big centre forward is Darius Henderson, you get all of that and a whole bunch more, for it really doesn’t do to underestimate his touch and control and all-round play when the ball isn’t just walloped in his vague direction from fifty yards away. He’s a better player than you think he is.

So, Doris is staying. We’ve got a centre forward, a proper old-fashioned one who your granddad would recognise (haircut aside). And the chances of paying hard-earned cash to watch Jay Demerit up front have just significantly diminished. A good day.