skip to content

Goalkeeper Hennessey eyes new horizons with Wales, Palace

Date:

For Wayne Hennessey, Wales’s achievement in reaching Euro 2016 did not hit home until he was face-to-face with Joe Ledley in the changing room after their final qualifier against Andorra.

The pair, born a day apart in January 1987, came through the Welsh youth ranks together and had endured the misery of four failed qualifying campaigns during which Wales sank to a low of 112th in the FIFA rankings.

Qualification was secured following a 2-0 loss in Bosnia-Herzegovina last weekend, but it was only after Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Andorra at the Cardiff City Stadium that the Crystal Palace team-mates — goalkeeper Hennessey and midfielder Ledley — realised what they had achieved.

“As soon as we got back in the dressing room, we were all just looking at each other and I said to my mate Joe Ledley, ‘Joe, we’ve done it. I can’t believe it, but we’ve done it,'” Hennessey told AFP.

“It just couldn’t sink in because we’ve never qualified before, we’ve never had that feeling.

“We’ve always had the feeling, ‘Oh, better luck next time.’ But the boys have been fantastic, we’ve crossed that line and proved a lot of people wrong.”

Wales had not qualified for a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup and had accumulated a string of agonising near-misses, most notably when Paul Bodin hit the bar with a penalty in a qualifying match against Romania in November 1993 that could have sent the Welsh to the World Cup.

Watching at home with his father on the island of Anglesey in north Wales was a six-year-old Hennessey, who remembers the match as much for an uncharacteristic error by Welsh goalkeeping great Neville Southall as for Bodin’s moment of misfortune.

“I remember watching it because Neville Southall made a mistake in that game,” says Hennessey, now 28.

“A shot popped right through him. I’m a big ‘Big Nev’ fan. He’s my favourite player in the whole wide world.

“It looked like we were going to do it, then it looked we weren’t going to do it, and then there was the penalty that hit the bar. It was just heartbreaking.”

– Sleepless nights –

Now Southall’s successor, Hennessey kept seven clean sheets in qualifying, a figure matched only by England’s Joe Hart and Romania’s Ciprian Tatarusanu, as Chris Coleman’s side went through their 10 Group B games conceding only four goals.

While he is excited about measuring himself against icons such as Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas next year, he believes Wales’ winning formula — a watertight defence allied to the counter-attacking thrust of Gareth Bale — will prove a match for any team.

“They’re fantastic goalkeepers and it’ll be a great pleasure to be on the same pitch as them, but at the end of the day we’re going there to win,” said Hennessey, who was speaking at an Umbro event in central London.

For the past three years, Hennessey’s exploits with Wales have provided a welcome distraction from his travails at club level.

A torn cruciate knee ligament suffered while at Wolverhampton Wanderers in April 2012 kept him out for 14 months and since joining Palace in January 2014, he has made only six league appearances.

But having started Palace’s last three games, he is hopeful of keeping his place in the team as Alan Pardew’s side look to build on a start that has seen them surge to fourth place in the Premier League table.

The pace and trickery of players such as Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie have made Selhurst Park a daunting venue and Hennessey relishes the thought of giving opponents sleepless nights.

“They should be nervous,” says the former Manchester City trainee, whose side host West Ham United on Saturday.

“We’re doing well, we’ve got good players there now and people are starting to think, ‘That’s a tough place to go to.’ We’ve set that standard now and we need to keep it up.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:

Subscribe

Popular

More like this
Related

NewsMobile Morning Brief

Pune Accident: Teen, Father Claim Driver Was Behind The...

Fact Check: Video of Overcrowded Train From Bangladesh Misleadingly Claimed As That From India

A video depicting an overcrowded train has recently gone...

Pune Accident: Teen, Father Claim Driver Was Behind The Wheel During The Crash

The accused is the son of a real estate developer Vishal Agarwal, who was in the car which crashed into the motorbike killing two people

“Never Question That”: Graeme Swann Backs India’s Decision To Pick Four Spinners For T20 WC

During the press conference earlier this month, India skipper Rohit Sharma revealed that he wanted four spinners in the squad for the highly-anticipated tournament