West Ham United have completed the signing of highly-rated goalkeeper Stephen Henderson on emergency loan from Portsmouth.
The 23-year-old stopper has linked up with the Hammers until the end of the season and was named on the bench for Saturday's game at Leeds United. The former Republic of Ireland Under-21 international has been a regular for Pompey this season, making 27 appearances, and is considered to be one of the best young goalkeepers in English football.
Henderson said he cannot wait to get started and is aiming to challenge Robert Green for the No1 jersey.
"As everybody knows, Portsmouth have financial difficulties, so I was told that West Ham put a bid in on Friday and that bid was accepted. I'm sad to leave Portsmouth but very happy to join a successful club in West Ham," he said.
"I'm aware that I might have to wait for my chance because Robert Green is one of the best goalkeepers in the Championship - everyone knows that. I will just come here, work as hard as I can and hopefully be ready when I'm given my chance.
"I played against West Ham for Portsmouth at Fratton Park and we lost 1-0 to a Mark Noble penalty, so I did OK there and the season has gone pretty well personally. Obviously it's been pretty difficult with everything that has been going on, but it's made me a stronger person and I'm ready for a new challenge."
Understandably, Henderson had a message of support for Portsmouth fans as the club continues to battle against financial issues and the threat of relegation.
"I had a special bond with the Portsmouth fans. They were absolutely brilliant with me and it has been very difficult for them losing players, but it had to be done to keep the club going. They know and we know that they have to stay positive and if they do stay up, that'll be a massive achievement. I hope they do and I'll be looking out for their scores every week."
Born in Dublin, Henderson is the latest goalkeeping member of his family, following grandfather Paddy, father Stephen and uncles Dave and Wayne. Paddy appeared in the European Cup with Shamrock Rovers in the 1960s, while Stephen senior kept goal for Shelborne, Dundalk, Limerick and Cobh Ramblers and later managed Cork City. Dave won the League of Ireland title with St Patrick's Athletic, while Wayne was capped six times by Republic of Ireland before retiring in 2011.
Henderson began his career with Belvedere FC in Dublin - the same club that produced Norwich City midfielder Wes Hoolahan, Fulham full-back Stephen Kelly and Burnley winger Keith Treacy - before moving to English football with Aston Villa at the age of 17 in 2005.
The goalkeeper moved to Bristol City in 2007, making his debut against Queens Park Rangers in August of the same year. However, facing competition from Adriano Basso and Chris Weale for the No1 jersey, Henderson was loaned to York City, Weymouth, Aldershot Town and Yeovil Town, making a total of 64 first-team appearances.
The continued presence of David James at Ashton Gate saw Henderson join Portsmouth on a permanent basis in summer 2011. At first, he served as back-up to Jamie Ashdown before breaking into the side and making his debut in a 1-0 npower Championship defeat at Leeds United on 1 October last year.
"I'm from Ireland but I've been over in England for a while - this is my eighth year now," he said. "I've played for a few clubs but this is obviously a massive move for me and I'm just going to do my best.
"I'm only 23 but I want to be playing games, like any other player. Robert Green is very respected but I'll keep working hard and we'll see what happens."
Henderson has also been capped regularly by Republic of Ireland at age-group level, appearing for the U16s, U17s and U19s before making his U21 debut in a 3-2 win over Sweden in Uppsala in October 2007. He totalled eight caps at U21 level.