‘Enry an Iron, ‘Enry an Iron, ‘Enry, ‘Enry, ‘Enry’s an Iron!

No smiling. Doneil remembers his TFC roots and keeps it real.

No smiling. Doneil remembers his TFC roots and keeps it real.

We all knew this was coming from a few weeks back when Doneil Henry got his work permit for England, a process West Ham were very much involved in, and today it was made official with West Ham announcing his transfer. For anyone hoping that a club from outside MLS might be more forthcoming than we’ve got used to with details of the transfer would be disappointed, as it was merely announced as ‘a long-term contract from Cypriot First Division club Apollon Limassol for an undisclosed fee.’  So exactly what Toronto get for this (or already got when he was transferred to Apollon, who knows how all this went down?) after the Cypriots take their percentage for facilitating the whole thing and MLS take their cut will probably forever be a mystery, for now all we know is that our ‘great core’ has one more position to be bolstered between now and March.

But anyway, this is more about Henry than it is TFC and I couldn’t be happier for him to get this chance, and it looks like he’ll have the chance to be working with Sam Allardyce right from the start as somewhat surprisingly it was announced he’d be joining the first team squad. Will that mean he gets Premier League playing time right away? Probably not, here’s Big Sam on his prospects of playing this season.

“We have invested in him for the near future, so we do hope he can make some sort of appearance this season if he settles in and does as well as Ryan thinks he will. If not, we hope he is certainly one for the future.”

That suggests that barring some kind of injury crisis he’ll be very carefully eased in, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he does get loaned out to a lower league team at some point as we all kind of presumed would happen, at best there might be some time late in the season if West Ham regress back to their expected mid table position. Either way, I’ve got much more confidence in him learning and developing the mental, tactical and positional side of the game to go with the raw physical attributes he’s shown off in his time here at West Ham than if he’d stayed with Toronto, so it’s good news for him and, for Canada in the future.  One thing he doesn’t need to work on is his cliche, give answers without saying anything at all game, this video West ham put out is a masterpiece of the genre.

The other aspect of this is that it’s another good indication of what management decided to give up when they cut ties with Ryan Nelsen, and that’s his contacts, useful not only for bringing players in, but also for finding them ways out to bigger and better things. This deal was very much a Nelsen production, not merely for his work directly with Henry, and the trust he showed in him to keep playing him as opposed to other TFC manager’s who’ve relegated him to the bench after one too many mishaps, but he’s also the one who initially sold Sam Allardyce on giving Henry a chance.

“Ryan was my captain at Blackburn for a couple of years and he rang us and told us about Doneil,” the manager confirmed. “He said this lad definitely has Premier League potential and he has everything he needs.

“With a little coaching from us and work in terms of how to defend in the Premier League, Ryan says he has all the attributes to be a good player.”

From watching Henry over the years, you can easily imagine how he’d make for a very attractive sales pitch for a coach with a healthy opinion of himself, which Big Sam definitely has. “Hey Sam, this kid’s got all the talent in the world, just needs the right coach to bring it out of him and polish away the rough edges, I think you might be that coach, don’t you agree?”  “Why yes I do Ryan, send him over”.

Anyway, it’ll probably be a few years before we’ll be able to say whether Henry’s done well at this level or not, and the good news is that no matter what happens, and no matter how you feel about TFC, you’ll be able to put whatever spin you want on it as far as how it relates to the club.  If he does well, the happy clappy spin will be ‘hey check out the prospect TFC developed, we can be a good place for kids to play and develop into stars’ and the cynical gloomy side will be able to say  ‘TFC should never have let him go, or at least should never have let the coach mainly responsible for the transfer, Ryan Nelsen, go’. If he fails, ‘well done TFC for getting a transfer fee for him’, or ‘see, told you he was a liability who didn’t have what it takes’. It’s win win folks.

As for a prediction of if he will succeed or not, if I had to put money an any specific outcome, I’d say that give it a year or two and West Ham will have the next Titus Bramble, generally good, occasionally catastrophic. Bramble got treated as a bit of a joke by most, but I don’t mean that as an insult, he was a decent EPL level defender, he just never quite lived up to his potential and established himself, but still, he got a few hundred premier league appearances and as a Canada fan, if Henry can reach that level, I’d be very very happy.

One last note, I now officially pronounce (and i can’t see why any of my fellow writers here wouldn’t concur) that West Ham are the Vocal Minority’s London EPL team. Amusingly enough, on TFC’s website Devang Desai suggests the same thing, not sure Tottenham’s marketing department will be happy about that one.








Author: Duncan Fletcher

Blogging journeyman formerly of Cruel Geography and Waking the Red, also briefly with Sportsnet and every now and then with the Guardian. As a supporter of Darlington, TFC, England and Canada, football's been unfair and poking fun at Duncan for decades now, so it's only fair he does the same right back at it. Follow him on twitter @duncandfletcher

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