COMMENT: Surprise Pompey selection battle takes another twist

Pompey goalkeeper Stephen Henderson. Picture: Colin Farmery/ Portsmouth FC
Pompey goalkeeper Stephen Henderson. Picture: Colin Farmery/ Portsmouth FC
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In the days which followed David Norris’ famous goal, he received a congratulatory phone call from an exiled team-mate.

With Pompey desperate for loan fees to offset crippling financial problems, Stephen Henderson had been sent to West Ham a month earlier.

It ensured he wasn’t present at St Mary’s to witness the stunning 94th-minute equaliser.

Instead, he was listening to proceedings on the radio as the Hammers travelled back from victory at Barnsley the previous night.

Embroiled in a Championship title race with Southampton, how the team bus celebrated Norris’ strike. Especially Henderson, toasting the team-mates and fans he had left behind.

He regrets departing for West Ham, although it was out of his hands.

His final Blues outing was a 1-0 loss at Reading in March 2012 – then Saturday came.

Almost six years later, the keeper was applauded as he entered the pitch before kick-off – a small Republic of Ireland flag even unfurled.

When he exited on 85 minutes there was similar applause, only this time he was clearly distraught.

The comeback the 29-year-old craved had been wrecked by a thigh injury – suddenly the player he deposed has another opportunity.

Henderson’s arrival was not the deadline-day surprise people braced themselves for.

Among fans, a new keeper was hardly a priority.

No reflection on the Irishman’s talents, but Luke McGee had been a reliable-enough presence. Besides, where was that central midfielder?

Until that point, McGee had started 35 of Pompey’s 36 matches and an ever-present in the League One campaign.

Jackett, though, had sought experienced competition since the summer window, with Alex Bass the sole cover.

He has often voiced concerns over McGee’s distribution. Despite a notable improvement with his kicking, it still worried.

The Blues boss also grew increasingly uneasy over inexperience and the commanding of his area.

Regardless, McGee’s Pompey career had kicked off encouragingly, certainly not a problem position.

Brimming with confidence, the 22-year-old is a charismatic training ground presence. His dropping to the bench won’t dent self-belief.

Still, it was an absence which lasted one match and he returns for MK Dons.

Yet with Henderson scheduled to return within two months, this battle is not quite over.