Alan Biggs Sheffield United column: Henderson’s a contradiction that Blades relish
No “big-time Charlies.” If you had to sum up Sheffield United’s success in four words that would be a top contender.
Aston Villa’s promotion via the play-offs makes it topical again because the Blades can also be defined by the events of Villa Park on February 8th – or rather their response to them.
And yet a central figure, both that night and in what followed, could be seen, from the outside, to represent what Chris Wilder – and his players – don’t allow in their dressing room.
But he’s also one of the most wanted – maybe THE most wanted – when it comes to preparations for the Premier League.
Dean Henderson is a contradiction. He can be flashy and flamboyant.
He’s also a flipping good goalkeeper.
And it was the late-season drama surrounding the Manchester United loanee, targeted for next season, that encapsulated what playing for Wilder’s team is all about.
Let’s just say a full-blown dressing inquest followed the 3-3 draw at Villa Park – after United conceded three late goals, two of which were unmistakably down to their keeper.
The way both the team and the individual responded is worth revisiting.
George Baldock summed up Henderson perfectly when he told me: “He talks the talk but he can walk the walk, can’t he?
“He’s been brilliant. We’ve got no problems with someone who’s very confident in himself because he backs it up.”
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Woe betide a mouthy player who doesn’t deliver in that dressing room. But it is partly Henderson’s extrovert personality, which can be a required trait in his position, that makes him the performer he is.
A big character who stands up in victory or defeat and who went on to finish the season outstandingly.
Skipper Billy Sharp, whose hat-trick was wiped out, called the Villa game, in more ways than one, “a defining point for us.”
He revealed: “We don’t have many meetings where we’re all sat down. After that, we did. It was a good hour’s talk and we got things off our chest.
“It could have ruined us for the season but it didn’t. We just dusted ourselves off and used it to be stronger as a group.”
Might have ruined Henderson as well had it not been for that shared resilience.
Right wing-back Baldock takes up the story: “We’re all professionals; all friends but there’s a lot at stake, a lot of pressure.
“The good thing about our group is that when someone does make a mistake they’re quick to own up to it.
“And it’s nipped in the bud quickly. That was the case. It stood us in good stead.”
As will be bringing back Henderson from Old Trafford if that can be arranged. The signs are that all the parties are willing. As the keeper himself might say, bring it on