Henderson: We try to play like Spain

COLCHESTER United’s in-form Ian Henderson has revealed that new manager John Ward’s free-flowing approach is inspired by World Cup winners Spain.

COLCHESTER United’s in-form Ian Henderson has revealed that new manager John Ward’s free-flowing approach is inspired by World Cup winners Spain.

The U’s boss promised attractive football upon his appointment this summer and has admitted that the rigidly direct tactics of his predecessor Aidy Boothroyd became predicable towards the end of last season.

So far the experienced coach has delivered on his word, with Colchester thrilling their travelling support with entertaining football in their 2-2 draw at Exeter and 3-0 victory at Hereford.

On paper the formation is probably a 4-3-3, however Ward has afforded his players a freedom of movement within the fluid set-up, putting great emphasis on versatility and trusting his players to adapt to the game as it unfolds.


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Full-backs are encouraged to get forward at every opportunity, the three man midfield are forever interchanging, while the two wide strikers can take up a variety of positions.

Henderson has been the man entrusted with playing in the right sided role and he has thrived there, the hot-headed yet technically-gifted player scoring in an impressive performance at Hereford.

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“It’s exciting football to be involved with,” enthused the 25-year-old, who actually started his career as an out-and-out striker.

“You see the way Spain played at the World Cup; they brought a new formation to football. The full-backs are a massive outlet and it’s very versatile.

“I’m not trying to compare us to Spain, but we are trying to take little bits from their style of play.”

He continued: “I don’t really know what you’d call the position I’m playing in! One minute I’m tracking back, the next minute I’m up front; sometimes I’m on the right and the next minute I’m coming inside. I’m a versatile player, there a lot of versatile players at the club and the manager is utilising that.

“The manager and ourselves don’t see it as a formation as such. Of course there is a basic shape, but he trusts his players to click into place as the game develops.

“There are no rules or stipulations on the players and we have been encouraged to try and attack at every opportunity.”

He added: “It’s obviously different to last season. The previous manager had his own beliefs and as a player I stood by them, as did all the other players. The new manager is here now though, he’s implementing his own style and it’s a really exciting thing to be part of.”

Henderson arrived at the Essex club as a free agent last January having cheekily asked Aidy Boothroyd – his former youth team coach at Norwich – whether he could come and train with the club. The former Canaries player had started the season at Turkish top-flight side Ankaragucu, but was released after just a few months following a change of presidents at the club.

In his six starts and seven sub appearances, Henderson both delighted and frustrated in equal measure. You were never quite sure whether he would be sent off following a moment of madness (as he did against Norwich) or score a superb goal (as he did against Wycombe).

A superb pre-season has seen him deservedly start the season though and now the passionate midfielder will certainly not be giving up his place lightly.

He said: “It’s always been instilled in me form a young age that you never know whether your next game could be your last one, so I’m always up for every match.

“I’m just so happy at the moment, both with the style of play the team is playing and how settled I am with where I live.

“I can’t wait for the Wednesday game. I have a couple of friends there – Giles Coke and Daniel Jones (both of whom he played with at Northampton) – and I know it’s going to be a big test.”

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