ALEX HENSHALL has experienced virtually every high and low available to young footballers trying to make the grade. He took some time to talk Town, Manchester City and his future with STEVEN FYFE.
How was it coming through the STFC academy?
“Great. As a young lad all I wanted to do was play football!
“I was fortunate enough to start at a club like Swindon, and there were so many good people there at the time who helped me along the way like Nutty (Jeremy Newton), Ian Palmer and Jimmy Fraser to name a few – They were big factors in my development.
“Always have confidence in your own ability… that’s my advice to kids coming through nowadays!”
“I’ve always followed Swindon since I’ve gone, always checking to see how they’ve got on, I’m 100 percent a fan now”
What memories do you keep of your time with us?
“Oh god there’s so many.
“One that spring to mind is of course the Milk Cup. Great experience that.
“One year we had a great team, everybody was just so close together and that showed on the pitch, and that’s how I won player of the tournament that year – because everyone played so well! Which made me play well, I’ll never forget that.
“Another one is when I was starting to get into the first team when I was around 15 years old, it was just so surreal! I was still at school and was training and getting in a few squads with the first team was just crazy. I learned so much during that time. All the lads were great and helped me which was nice.”
What players did you think would or know would make it in the pro game?
“My old friend Ryan Wilkinson definitely. He was there with me pretty much from the very start in football, from Ferndale FC to Swindon Town academy, we played with each other for years. He’s just a good all-round midfielder, strong, good technically and could pass a ball, but for him it just wasn’t to be I guess! Lucky he’s pretty smart!
“Another one would be Bill (Billy Bodin), also great technically and so calm on the ball which helped everybody else! I just knew he would be a player 100 percent.
“And of course good old Jimmy (Jamie Stephens). He’s a great lad and unbelievable keeper, him and I have had some good battles in the past in training. There’s probably a couple I’ve missed out!”
What was it like hearing of Manchester City interest and signing?
“Of course I was very honoured, they had been after me for a while but I was just not sure at the time because I was certain I wanted to finish school first before I decided on doing anything!
“It’s such a big decision and especially at that age, was very hard leaving STFC as well because I loved it there! But you know I’m glad I did it now because it’s just something you can’t turn down! And I enjoyed every moment at city.”
You spent four years there, how was the experience and any players we should look for?
“It was an unbelievable experience. I travelled the world and played in so many countries.
“I was just so looked after there and that’s why I take nothing for granted!
“There’s quite a few players to look out for! Ems Huws would be one, very good midfielder! He’s one to look out for definitely.
“Denis Suarez would be another… the type of player that looks like he doesn’t get out of second gear but an amazing talent he is! There’s too many to name!”
What highlights have you taken from your time at the Etihad?
“Training with the first team would defiantly be one, obviously you’re playing with some of the best players in the world and you learn a heck of a lot! The intensity was just a joke, I loved every single minute of it.
“We had so many tournaments for youth team and reserves that we went on to win which was great! Because you’re also playing against the best players your age around the world, the standard would always be very high. The experience as a whole was unbelievable.”
You had loans at Chesterfield and Bristol Rovers – how were they?
“Chesterfield is where I made my league debut and I’ve got Paul Cook to thank for that.
“I did well in my time there and it’s a completely different experience because its men’s football. You’re going out there to try and win every game, playing for points, either leading to a promotion or the playoffs or even relegation so it’s a different ball game entirely.
“And Bristol Rovers was a bit of an odd one, scoring my first goal in the Football League which was nice! The lads were brilliant there as well.
“My loan deal was only for a month but it just never happened for me there for whatever reason! You just have to get on with it and work as hard as you can for the next one.”
You were then loaned to Ipswich before signing there – did you enjoy your time there?
“It was another good experience for me. I was 100 percent ready to move on from Man City and was desperate to play some first-team football. Mick McCarthy told me when my loan was finished that he wanted to sign me permanently and I was excited.
“They have great fans and a great bunch of lads as well and I enjoyed living there too. I wish them all the best for the future!”
You also have some youth international experience – what’s it like to represent your country?
“Unbelievable! I’m very proud to have represented my country. There’s no better feeling. Again, I got to travel the world with them, especially playing in the Euros and the Under 17s World Cup which was amazing, and of course I can’t forget winning the Victory Shield! I was still an STFC player during that tournament so it was nice to represent them too.”
My thanks to Alex for participating and I wish him every success in the future.