Pompey can make me a Euro star

Stephen Henderson has European Championship ambitions
Stephen Henderson has European Championship ambitions
Pompey were crowned league champions on this day in 1949. Picture: Pompey History Society

On this day picture gallery: Pompey crowned league champions

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This summer, Stephen Henderson wants to be on a plane headed for the European Championship.

And the in-form goalkeeper is targeting a flying finale to the season – at Pompey – to make his Euro dream come true.

Henderson’s international aspirations moved close to fruition last week when he received his maiden Republic of Ireland call-up.

The 23-year-old was part of Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad for their 1-1 friendly draw with the Czech Republic.

That saw him link-up with his childhood idol Shay Given in the Ireland set-up.

Henderson failed to see any action but the fact he is now on Trapattoni’s radar with the weeks ticking down to the summer tournament in Ukraine and Poland is exciting news for him.

His form since displacing Jamie Ashdown as first choice at Pompey is what has seen him make the international breakthrough.

That has seen a number of suitors register their interest in his services to administrator Trevor Birch.

Henderson has admirably insisted he wants to remain at Fratton Park – although he knows that decision is out of his hands.

The Dublin-born talent believes he can fulfil his Euro ambitions by continuing his form at Pompey – given the chance.

Henderson said: ‘It’s a very emotional time for me because I didn’t see the call-up coming.

‘To be called up for my country is a dream come true.

‘To go and train with them, especially with Shay Given who is a massive idol of mine, was just mind-blowing.

‘I’ve been watching them since I was a little boy.

‘He was a massive influence on me growing up and he definitely lived up to his reputation when I met him. He was a top man.

‘I’d be lying if I said I was just happy with that now.

‘I want to be on that plane now. I know I can do it with the performances I put in at Portsmouth. That’s what I intend to do.’

Despite his delight at making a breakthrough with the Ireland squad, Henderson has underlined where his international hopes stand in his priorities.

He promised Pompey fans that keeping his club in the Championship is his main focus and he is not being sidetracked by loftier hopes.

The fact he has been quick to nail his colours to the mast and insist he wants to remain at Fratton Park – despite all the uncertainty shrouding the club – underlines that fact.

Henderson said: ‘My number-one goal is Portsmouth. Anything else after that is a bonus.

‘My goal has to be about keeping this team in the league.’

Despite a run of just a single clean sheet in seven games, there has been no questioning the displays Henderson has been producing of late.

Pompey have been winless over the same period – and the Irish goalkeeper knows the two statistics go hand in hand.

He said: ‘I feel a bit exposed at times and we need to sort it and stop feeling sorry for ourselves.

‘We seem a bit suicidal at the back at the moment.

‘Saturday was the first time in a while we conceded three goals. I was devastated by that.

‘I am happy with my form and the way I’m going but it’s not about me.

‘If we are not winning it makes me down but I just need to snap out of it.’