Man Utd player Dean Henderson praises non league saying “it was the making of me” in an interview ahead of Non League Day 2022.
Th biggest volunteer-led event in the non-league system, is returning for the first time since 2019 this weekend with clubs attendances expected to see a heavy boost.
Many Premier League and EFL clubs have urged their supporters to go to a lower level match, and in keeping with that theme, Manchester United’s Dean Henderson has opened up about the time that a first loan at Stockport County helped make him the goalkeeper he is today.
The shot stopper explains how important his stint at Edgeley Park in 2016 was for his education and why it is a route other keepers have gone down in order to make it to the top.
Playing in the National League North was the start of his senior career and part of a plan to help him to accelerate his learning of the trade.
“I think when Jordan Pickford was going out, at the start he went to Carlisle and it was an eye-opener for me,” Henderson tells club media. “He was getting involved in the England squad and had the move to Everton. I’d got to follow that sort of pathway.
“He had a lot of games behind him and this was a reason he got the move to Everton and, firstly, in the Sunderland team. He had the games behind him. You don’t just go into the first team as a goalkeeper through the Academy. It doesn’t work like that.
“For me, I followed the pathways so well, I did exactly those steps,” he continues. “I played for Stockport in the Conference North, Grimsby in League Two, Shrewsbury in League One and then Championship and Premier League for Sheffield United to come back and create a situation here.
“I think it’s massively important to do that. Look at Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal, he’s done the same. Look at Sam Johnstone, he’s done the same and played a lot of games. Nick Pope. There are ones who actually get through and some will be missed off the thing because they haven’t played enough games at a young age. So I speak really passionately about it. You can see I can go on about it all day. We followed a great pathway.”
💬 “I absolutely loved it… it made me who I am today.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 26, 2022
“I remember going there when I was a young kid,” he recalls on his time at Stockport. “To be fair, I absolutely loved it. It was tough, really hard, as a young boy. Going into that division was an eye-opener for me. I’m thankful for the opportunity given to me by the manager at the time, Jim Gannon, for sticking by me because I didn’t play too well.
“Stockport was a great club and a club that should be in the Football League and hopefully will be soon. But I really enjoyed it, getting battered around as a goalkeeper in that league really sort of made me who I am today. I was really getting smashed on crosses, kicking the ball 80 yards on to the striker’s head and, if I didn’t do so, the manager was screaming at me from the touchline. It stood me in good stead and I really appreciate the opportunity they gave me.
“I think that’s what makes you, playing at that level is probably harder than playing in the Premier League, in my opinion, as a goalkeeper, because it’s a completely different game. It’s tough, rough and ready and you’ve got to take it on the chin. Certain elements are in my game now, that I’ve learnt at that level, and have been brought forward into the Premier League.
“I think my debut, in the first five minutes, their big striker said: ‘Stick it on the goalie, he’s pooping himself’. I thought: ‘Right mate, I’m coming for this’. So I made my mind up I was coming for it and, before I even got there, he flicked it over my head. These are the things you learn and move on. It was great for me.
“I think it’s always hard, your first loan is always difficult to go into a dressing room full of men, real men, you go in there and I’m coming in with the Manchester United badge on my shoulder and probably having yourself more than you should do, at that moment in time, not realising what you’re going into. The next minute, you get hit and make a mistake and it’s like: ‘Oh God, I’ve got to find a way into the group and build relationships’. So, in the end, it was okay but, at the start, it was really difficult.
“It’s why I’m sitting here today. If I didn’t [go out on loan], I’d probably be in League One now, just going out on my first loan. I fought for it and I stand by it, the best decision of my life.”
— Stockport County (@StockportCounty) April 23, 2020
Twitter users reacted as the Man Utd player praises non league saying “it was the making of me”…
@Thes0nofg0d: Brilliant keeper always welcomed back anytime at EP surprised some United fans don’t rate him much tho 🤷🏻♂️ #UTH #StockportCounty
@chris_eaton_: Great to see this, even back then players enjoyed being at EP. High praise for @james16gannon too 👏 Love to see it 🎩 #stockportcounty
@nathlanding: come home king
@LiamNUFC98: Non league football is still the best thing in football #NonLeague
@DarraghMUFC__: Let him go to a club that deserves him
@DeanoSeason: Number one ☝️🏴
@BrettAngellsle1: Love it @deanhenderson
@NonLeagueGuys: It’s #NonLeagueDay and a great time to share how it important it is #BeSeen 🟠🔵
@UtdZackM: Deano ❤❤
The shirt he made his debut in and wore at County 💙 pic.twitter.com/rJmDYy1Yp6
— The Stockport County Shirt Collection (@countyshirts) March 26, 2022