After suffering an injury that kept him out for the entire 2011-12 season, Arsenal midfielder Conor Henderson finally looks like he's set to make an impact at the Emirates Stadium
By Ronan Murphy
A number of Irish players have come through the ranks at Arsenal, graduating from the Gunners academy to become international stars. Liam Brady, David O'Leary, Frank Stapleton and Niall Quinn are among the luminaries to graduate from the youth setup, with 20-year-old Conor Henderson set to follow in their footsteps.
London-born Henderson looked set for an Emirates Stadium breakthrough last season, but a cruciate ligament injury against Koln in pre-season saw him ruled out of most of the 2011-12 campaign. The midfielder had come to Arsene Wenger's attention thanks to solid displays for the underage side, helping Arsenal lift the FA Youth Cup and spur them to two Premier Academy League titles.
Henderson had made his Gunners debut in the previous season, playing the full 90 minutes against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup where he operated at left midfield in a 5-0 victory. After the game, Henderson received glowing praise from his club manager. "He did well and showed that technically he is of the level we request here. He has a nice, smooth left foot and has a good physical build," Wenger told arsenal.com back in March 2011.
|CONOR HENDERSON | Arsenal, Midfielder, 20
After six months on the sidelines, Henderson returned to reserve team action at the end of last season, with Wenger claiming that it was 'fantastic' to have the midfielder back. Despite the setback, he signed a new contract in December, and could finally make the long-awaited breakthrough this season.
A wide midfielder mainly, Henderson can play on both sides as well as in the middle, and possesses great vision and regularly outpaces the opposing full back. A former England under-17 international, he switched to Ireland at under-19 as all of his grandparents are Irish.
A fellow Irish Gunner was Henderson's idol growing up, and he hopes to follow in his footsteps at both club and international level. "If there’s one player who I want to emulate it’s Liam Brady," he told the Irish Examiner. "He had such a great left foot and was such a wonderful player who is one of Ireland’s best ever. Working under him at Arsenal has been a privilege for me."
Henderson's main aim this year will be to stay fit, and he looked sharp captaining an Arsenal XI to a 3-1 victory over Boreham Wood last week.