Same yet so different on keeper’s Pompey return

Pompey goalkeeper Stephen Henderson. Picture: Colin Farmery
Pompey goalkeeper Stephen Henderson. Picture: Colin Farmery
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Stephen Henderson didn’t know what the word meant.

But a quick Google search told him ‘liquidation’ wasn’t a term any football club wanted to be associated with. Pompey had entered administration for the second time in as many years and the man who this week sealed a return to Fratton Park was informed of the Domesday scenario on the horizon.

Stephen Henderson in action during his first stint with Pompey. Picture: Barry Zee

Stephen Henderson in action during his first stint with Pompey. Picture: Barry Zee

Long-serving manager, chairman and CEO PA Ash Emberson played the grim reaper on this occasion, as she relayed how close the club was close to going out of existence.

Henderson was quickly sacrificed as he moved on loan to West Ham, the pre-cursor to a permanent deal two months later.

Now, six years on, the 29-year-old’s career has come full circle with the crazy events at Pompey a taster of what was to follow on a tumultuous football journey.

And there were plenty who vividly remember Pompey’s fight for survival present to greet Henderson at their Roko training base on Thursday.

‘It’s good to be back,’ Henderson said.

‘I saw Kev (McCormack) and it was like I’ve never been away. There’s Baz (Harris) as well. It’s good to see them and it puts a smile on your face.

‘There are still people here who remember what happened last time.

‘Ash (Emberson) was the one who told us there was potentially going to be liquidation.

‘Me and Joel Ward were in the gym one day and she came in and told us. As a kid you don’t understand it.

‘It was a case of what does that mean? So then I googled it and realised it was bad. Then it was you aren’t getting paid for four months. That’s worse!

‘We weren’t getting paid. There were a lot of big dogs on big money here but as younger lads we weren’t on that sort of money.

‘It was a scary time. Real scary. Bills had to be paid so it wasn’t nice but it was an experience all the same.

‘But I’m just grateful to be back.’

Henderson’s path has seen him left in the cold, subjected to football politics and hit by major injury before returning to a club very different to the one he left.

He said: ‘The club seems a lot more stable than some of the clubs I’ve been at.

‘I know Portsmouth have seen some difficult times but from what I’ve seen and heard it’s a lot different now, with a lot of stability.

‘There are good lads here and it’s a good place.

‘I wasted a lot of my career at West Ham. I did well at Charlton in the first year but they then had five managers in the space of 18 months. Then at Forest I’ve had four managers. It’s been absolutely crazy.

‘I ruptured my Achilles after getting into the Forest team and getting my first run of games. It happened five games in when (Norwich’s) Wes Hoolahan shot from the halfway line.

‘I was back-peddling, went to jump and felt a little pop.

‘I didn’t think much of it until I was told I was going to be out for a year! You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve seen over the past four years. It’s been mental.’