Doneil Henry left Toronto FC in 2015 to follow his dream of playing in the English Premier League, but so far his time in England has mostly been a nightmare. Since joining West Ham the Canadian defender spent most of last year dealing with a hamstring injury which required surgery.
Living alone for the first time in his life in a new country far away from his home and native hand, Henry's first year abroad was nothing if not difficult. But he hopes someday when he looks back at a year that right now seems so painful, he will be able to see it in a most positive light.
"I feel like some of these days that are pretty rough will be days that I remember that built me as a character, and as an individual," he explained during a recent media call. "I know that eventually my time will come and then I can look back and laugh at all these days when I fought hard."
Despite how disappointing the first year in England has been, the 22-year-old certainly doesn't regret his decision to leave his hometown of Toronto. He was too comfortable in Toronto, he says, and if he wanted to take the next step in his career he needed to step out of his comfort zone.
HIs only regret is that he didn't get a chance to travel abroad sooner, but he considers his experience in England so far to be positive.
"I wish I could have [moved to England] even earlier so I could have developed through the youth system," he says. "I feel like the structure is a lot better organized as [West Ham] have so many years of history of players excelling through their ranks."
Henry also understands how important his move was for Canadian soccer. Very few Canadians ply their trade in top leagues around the World at the moment.
Other than Henry, Atiba Hutchinson is the only other player in the national team rotation who plays for a top club. Part of his goal with West Ham is to create opportunities for other Canadian players by giving the country a good name in European football circles.
"There's obviously pressure to do well for Canadians because as Canadians we don't get the respect that I feel like we should with the amount of good players that we have," Henry explained.
That tally of good players is increasingly, something not lost of Henry as he surveys the difference between the Canadian national team now and when he last played for them a year ago. He is particularly excited about seeing Junior Hoilett join the squad, as the QPR midfielder helped Henry a lot during his move for England.
"Probably my best mate in England is Junior," said Henry. "We get along really well so seeing him involved is definitely a big deal for Canadian football stepping in the right direction."
He laughed off the idea that he led to Hoilett joining Canada, but said in his mind there was little doubt that Junior would one day suit up for the national team. Henry admitted to getting a little jealous seeing Hoilett leave to play for Canada while he was still going through rehab.
This time the roles have reversed to some degree. Hoilett has become an important player at QPR and therefore was not called up for Canada's January camp. Henry is there, and looking to earn his spot back after his year away. His ultimate goal is to be once again called up when Canada play against Mexico in March World Cup qualifying.
But that's not the only thing Henry will looking to accomplish when he plays in the February 5 friendly against the United States that culminates the Canadian camp. Having been away for so long, he wants to use the game to show people that he is still an excellent player.
"Obviously not playing at the club right now, so when the opportunity came up [to play for Canada] I said if it's to get a game to show people that I'm fit and healthy and can continue to show people what I do it's a good opportunity."
Henry will be hoping that he is finally woken up from the nightmare that was the past year. If he has he will have done so just in time to help Canada try and accomplish their dream of getting back to the World Cup.