When Doneil Henry spent the summer training with West Ham of the English Premier League there were multiple reports of how impressed the side was with his ability. The rumour was that they would have signed him then, but as always with Canadian players there is the issue of acquiring a work permit. That remains an issue for Henry today, but one that he is a lot closer to solving, as reports indicate a hearing on Monday will determine whether or not the 21-year-old Canadian will start his European journey in England.
The door to Europe opened for Henry when it was announced that he was property of Cypriot club Apollon Limassol. As expected, it looks like he will never play a match for this club but instead they served as his door into Europe. The initial assumption was that Henry would play one year in Cyprus in order to earn a citizenship, and therefore have more of a chance to get a job on the continent. However, apparently property ownership can also lead to citizenship. It is likely this was the avenue that Henry took.
If anyone is wondering why Apollon Limassol would provide this service for Henry, it is now pretty clearly financials. Toronto FC would have had to pay a fee to retain the services of Henry this past season, now Limassol will earn a transfer fee from West Ham. Interesting way to turn a profit.
It has been an excellent year for the young Canadian. At Toronto FC he earned a starting job beside Steven Caldwell and held it for the majority of the season. He had a crucial goal that helped earn Toronto a spot in the Voyageurs Cup final. He also scored in the final, although it ultimately came in a lost cause against the Montreal Impact. He added another goal in MLS play which came late in a thrilling 3-2 comeback victory over the Columbus Crew.
For the national team, he has been asked to play right back. While this experiment hasn't exactly worked for Benito Floro he continues to trust Henry with a spot in the starting lineup. While the young Canadian has been criticized in this role, part of it is undue. He has had difficulty with his passing and general play on the ball, something that is important for a fullback. However, in a defensive role he has been pretty solid, especially against Colombia.
Now it remains to be seen whether he can replicate this success in Europe, or whether the raw outweighs the talent at the sport's highest level. There has always been a huge asterisk to all of Henry's talent, and for some it completely outweighs the player himself. His lack of discipline is well noted, and has hurt Toronto FC at the best of times throughout the season.
On the other hand, his well developed positioning and physicality gives him a couple of tools that are highly regarded and successful in the Premier League. He will not be relied upon technically like he may have been in some other European leagues. Plus, at his age there is still plenty of time for him to develop.
Henry's role with West Ham is not yet known, although considering age and experience it would be a big surprise if he played more than a few minutes in the EPL, if he makes the roster at all. Should his work permit go through the deal will be done on the first day of the January transfer window.