Sheffield United: Why on-loan Manchester United man Dean Henderson is loving life at Bramall Lane

Dean Henderson looks up to the heavens
Dean Henderson looks up to the heavens
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Before every game he plays, as he jogs to his goalmouth ahead of kick-off, Dean Henderson arches his head skywards and has a few words.

It is a superstition that has, on the strength of his career so far, served him well, and also highlights the amount of self-confidence the on-loan Sheffield United goalkeeper possesses.

"I do it for my grandad and pops," the Manchester United stopper told The Star. "They're always looking down on me, so I like to talk to them before the game.

"It's just a weird thing I've always done, asking for their support in the games.

"I ask them to get behind me... and tell them that it's my time to shine."

Henderson, more physically imposing face-to-face than he appears on the pitch and seemingly leading a one-man campaign to make the 1990s 'curtain' hairstyle fashionable again, is a confident boy.

So, somewhat predictably, he appeared in his element earlier this week when United invited fans to an open training session at Bramall Lane and he had the opportunity to show off his skills in front of a crowd.

Many, though, had seen him at his best two days earlier, against Norwich City at Bramall Lane. The scores were level at 1-1 and the game was on a knife-edge when Moritz Leitner broke through, after the assistant referee failed to flag despite the German being yards offside.

Leitner had two other teammates in yellow alongside him but elected to shoot rather than square, and Henderson made the save; his celebration afterwards leaving little doubt about his feelings.

"It was weird really... everything just seemed to go silent," remembers the 21-year-old.

Dean Henderson of Sheffield Utd celebrates

Dean Henderson of Sheffield Utd celebrates

"I saw him coming and thought 'surely he's going to pass it'. So I just waited, waited and waited... didn't go down or try to anticipate anything. Just stood there.

"I don't know if he didn't realise his mates were with him or anything, but I got close enough to make the block and obviously, it was a great feeling.

"The noise after that sounded as loud as the goal to me. It was obviously a big moment in the game, but it's something I've done countless of times in my career.

"To do it in this arena was special, because the sound was deafening.

"For a goalkeeper, it's like scoring a goal... that's what a 'keeper dreams of. Three against one, they think it's in and then make the save."

Minutes earlier, on United's official media channels, Henderson had been even more bullish: "Next time they'll need the whole team rather than just three, and even then they won't score."

There is often a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but Henderson falls on the right side of it. He is a popular member of the United squad, especially amongst the 'goalkeeper's union' at Shirecliffe and Bramall Lane, and will likely make his fifth appearance in United colours this weekend when Chris Wilder's men travel to Bolton Wanderers.

But after growing up in Carlisle, he was more accustomed to an oval ball than a round one and even represented his county at cricket, as an accomplished wicketkeeper/batsman.

Catching obviously comes naturally to him, but even after focusing on football Henderson was a winger and then a centre-half. Only when Carlisle's regular 'keeper dropped out of a game did he put on the gloves, and he's barely looked back since.

Even now, though, he reckons he could still play centre-half at a decent standard and has set his sights on becoming the world's best goalkeeper. And judging by his parent club's decision to give him a two-year contract before dispatching him on loan to Bramall Lane, they believe he has the necessary qualities too.

"Sheffield United's such a big club," he adds.

"We're looking good and training well, have a great manager and are all pulling in the right direction. Who knows what can happen?

"Everyone's enjoying themselves and playing here at Bramall Lane, in front of such passionate fans... life's good. So you've got to enjoy it.

"Do I feel the love from the fans? Yeah, and it's lovely. I've been to places where the fans don't warm to you, and I didn't feel it when I went on loan to Stockport... although I did make a mistake in my first game, so that might be why!

“It’s all a learning curve, though. It helps massively when the fans are behind you. If I’m being honest, it makes you feel unbeatable at times.

“The goalkeeping union here is fantastic, too. A great set of lads. Darren Ward is a fantastic coach, Simon Moore is a lovely lad who really helps me a lot and talks to me all the time.

“The group of us are always going out for coffees as well too, so we’ve got a great working relationship.”

As does Henderson with his former clubs, including Shrewsbury - for whom he kept 19 clean sheets last season as Paul Hurst’s men reached the play-off final, losing to Rotherham United at Wembley.

Henderson travelled to the Keepmoat Stadium to watch the Shrews face Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday, and admitted: “I’m a passionate boy, and I really want to do well anywhere I go. I also become a fan of wherever I go, too. It was the same at Shrewsbury last season, and now the same at United.

“And I’m as confident as they come,” he added.

“You’ve got to be, at the end of the day, to play here. You’ve got to have something behind you and a bit of personality, and that’s something I stick by.

“I’m only 21 years old, so if I don’t have any confidence or an ego about me then I’ll have a tough time.”