Appleton tips Henderson for Premier future

Pompey goalkeeper Stephen Henderson has been tipped for the top
Pompey goalkeeper Stephen Henderson has been tipped for the top
Smoke bombs were let off during Pompey's match against Charlton today. Picture: Joe Pepler

Steward treated after smoke bombs let off following Pompey defeat

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Stephen Henderson’s future lies in the Premier League.

That’s the unshakable belief of Blues boss Michael Appleton as he braces himself to lose his star keeper.

Ipswich and West Ham are among up to five clubs who have shown interest in the Republic of Ireland player.

Henderson has repeatedly insisted he wants to remain at Pompey after arriving in the summer from Bristol City.

The 23-year-old is not one of the higher earners at Fratton Park.

But any opportunity to receive a loan fee for their players will be considered by the Blues, with the final decision out of the hands of both Henderson and his manager.

Appleton is desperate to retain the services of the keeper, who has been one of the stars of the season so far.

Regardless of the outcome, he has no doubts the talented former Robins player is destined to become a top-flight performer.

He said: ‘Stephen has been great for me. He has been outstanding.

‘He has had a couple of blips recently, but I thought he was back on top form against Leeds.

‘There were no surprises whatsoever with his international call-up (for the friendly against Czech Republic last week).

‘It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest little bit if we had Premier League teams knocking on the door.

‘It will cost them a few quid if they did. He’s a decent shot-stopper but where he has really come on during the last few weeks is dominating the box.

‘He is not the tallest of keepers, although is not small. But he is getting in and around bodies and is not afraid of making mistakes. I prefer those keepers.

‘If you are a member of your back four and you have a keeper you know is coming for crosses, especially looping ones, it makes you feel so much more secure.

‘I say to keepers all the time, if referees see you coming for stuff and being brave a lot of the time you will get decisions that you probably shouldn’t get.

‘They see you being brave and it looks from their point of view as though you are being fouled by front players.

‘I think he has really added that into his game over the last couple of months.

‘So all of a sudden that ball comes into the box and you know he is coming for it, whether he catches it or punches it.’

Henderson has so far made 26 appearances for the Blues.

Such has been his form, he has kept Jamie Ashdown at arm’s length since October to establish himself as first choice.

And Appleton believes the Irishman offers something different to many keepers these days.

He added: ‘In terms of the modern-day goalkeeper, there are not that many who actually come off their line.

‘A lot these days are rooted to the line afraid to come between bodies and collect things and be brave enough to do that.

‘I think he has got that in his locker.

‘You make a couple of errors and people get on your back.

‘But they forget the five or six that you collected clean and took the pressure off your back four before you’ve just done that.’