‘It was just a bridge too far doing this season’ - why Hendo left King’s Lynn Town and his excitement at Greens ambitions
Ian Burt Photography
Chris Henderson admits leaving King’s Lynn Town will probably be a decision he comes to regret but that won’t stop him driving Gorleston up the football pyramid.
Henderson left The Walks with a heavy heart last month as a change in personal circumstances meant he could no longer offer the commitment necessary to continue with the Linnets on their National League Premier adventure.
Gorleston, four levels lower than King’s Lynn in the non-league structure, tempted Henderson with their ambitious plans to one day follow in King’s Lynn’s footsteps and the forward wants to prove the catalyst to make that journey happen.
“I know that Gorleston have got a plan and I need to think more long term and help them in their process,” said Henderson, 30. “We’ve seen many clubs push up from that level – Lowestoft, Needham, Leiston – they all started in the Thurlow Nunn and I think that’s what Gorleston will try and replicate in years to come.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say it’s a huge drop (compared to King’s Lynn). Without causing anyone any disrespect I probably didn’t realise how big the drop was.
“But I hope I’m going to be the one that gives the club a bit of a kickstart and hopefully progresses further as the years go on.”
Henderson made his debut in a 4-1 defeat at home to Norwich United and notched in the 4-1 defeat at Mildenhall whilst King’s Lynn were drawing 2-2 with Yeovil in their season opener on national television. He admitted that his return to the Thurlow Nunn League has seen him become a marked man with many questioning his decision to leave King’s Lynn.
“A few people have asked me why – a few of the Mildenhall lads had a dig saying ‘you could have been on BT Sport tonight’ but it’s just one of those things,” he added ahead of Gorleston’s FA Vase clash with Downham on Saturday. “You’re going to get it, especially Norwich United at home, my first game back, I found myself quite short on space because without flattering myself they had obviously seen me as the main threat. I had two or three men on me at a time but that’s to be expected.
“We now need to know how to deal with that and other players will become more available on the pitch – that’s something that we all have to deal with but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“As disappointed as I am to leave King’s Lynn, I’m looking forward to seeing where this can take me and the club especially.”
Gorleston boss Ricci Butler is keen for Henderson to maintain the high standards demanded of him during his time at the Walks but the former Lowestoft and Leiston man is understanding of the squad around him.
“It’s a tough one – Ric said that I have to come in and demand the same,” he said. “When it comes to work ethic and all the basics in football then you can, but when it comes to just actual quality there’s a reason these lads are four or five leagues off my old team-mates.
“I can’t demand as much quality from them because with no disrespect they haven’t got it. I have to go a bit easier on them – I can’t expect the same from these lads as I did at King’s Lynn.
“On pure basics and being dedicated then I think that’s something that has to step up and I’m going to try and help with that.”
Henderson reflected on the soul searching that took place during the coronavirus pandemic as his life changed away from the pitch and the demands of operating just one level outside of the Football League became clearer.
“It was tough – things have changed in my life with coronavirus – it blew everyone’s life up in one way or another, and I had other things going on and just playing that level of football was virtually impossible with everything I’ve got to juggle in life at the moment.
“If there was one percent of me that thought I could have done it then I would have. I didn’t want to miss out on playing on BT, I didn’t want to miss out playing against these massive clubs that I’ve dreamt about playing against for years.
“Ultimately, I tried my best in pre-season to stay with the schedule but the schedule of the training has gone up, the demands of the league have gone up higher – the manager won’t accept anything less than anyone that’s fully committed to it.
“I had to accept that I couldn’t be – it’s a massive shame and that’s probably the reason I dropped so low because other areas of my life have been put on hold whilst I concentrated on football and it was just a bridge too far doing this season.
“It’s probably something that I will look back on and regret – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that but the drop down in standard and commitment frees up so much time that I’m desperate for and need to kick on in life.
“It would be easy to just do this year but it would set me back so far in other areas of my life which I won’t get into – it was just impossible to do.”
Henderson believes the Ian Culverhouse factor will ensure the Linnets continue to thrive and build upon the four points they have taken from their opening two games against Yeovil and Maidenhead.
“They (King’s Lynn) will be a big force in that league,” he said. “Whilst they have got Ian Culverhouse, and I’m not taking anything away from the quality that we’ve got because it is incredible, but whilst they’ve got Ian Culverhouse in charge then they will overachieve.
“I really don’t see them struggling this year at all. It’s easy for me to say because I’ve been in amongst it. I think they will be nearer the top than the bottom – Ian Culverhouse is a massive asset to have at that level.
“I hope he does but, if they carry on the way they are, then I’ll be surprised if he’s not a league manager next season – probably with King’s Lynn the way they are going!”
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