Stephen Henderson: 'We're striving for basic respect from the football fraternity in Cork'Sun, Jan 28 2018
Cobh Ramblers boss Stephen Henderson is arguably one of the best coaches that the First Division has ever seen.
In an exclusive interview with Extratime.ie, 'Hendo' spoke passionately about his club's struggles in recent years and their miraculous rise from the ashes amid the successes of county rivals Cork City.
With last season's success still fresh in the memory, the former Rams goalkeeper has showed a keen desire to keep the momentum of last season going and is more than happy with how pre-season has gone to date.
“Pre-season is going really well,” he said.
“We got the lads on their programmes three weeks after the end of last season and we had them tested. They look great and we’ve got some good work done.
“We had the Cork City match, which was the first chance to get a run around on a very heavy pitch, which was great for both teams to get a run out.”
High on many League of Ireland managers priority list is to tie down as many re-signings as possible for the next season, a task which Stephen Henderson has managed to carry out so far.
“When we look at signings at the start of every season supporters would always be looking for who and what’s new.
“Nine out of ten times the most important signings you’re going to make are the ones that you keep. I think we’ve managed to do that by and large.
“We’ve some very talented young players and they had a great experience last year, finishing second. Through that experience I think they all know that there was an opportunity to go and win that league.
“We have to try and figure out with that same group is, where we went wrong, can we go reset and go one step forward next year.”
Henderson is wary of the threats posed to his sides by the likes of Galway United, Finn Harps, Longford Town and perennial promotion contenders UCD.
“Three Premier teams have come down and then you have Shelbourne, Longford and Cabinteely who are investing very heavily and then everybody forgets that UCD have the pick of the best young players in the country.
“It’s going to be a very difficult league, very competitive and then with the re-introduction of the play-offs this will go down to the wire, so I think if we could manage to make the playoffs this year it will probably be our best achievement since we got back in there.”
Finishing in second place on 51 points, having pushed a free-spending Waterford side all the way, 'Hendo' dismissed claims that the praise his side received was patronising.
He lauded the behind-the-scenes work that has seen Cobh Ramblers get back on their feet after a traumatic few years.
“When we went in the club was on her knees. Wait, no,she wasn’t on her knees – she was crawling on her belly. And that’s the truth.
“Our job was to try and get back up from her belly and then on to her knees and then be able to stand. We’re now just about able to stand up on our own two feet at the moment and its been huge progress.
“Any kind of positive comments towards the club is greatly appreciated and its not undermining us in any certain way. The fact is we did run Waterford very, very close who had ten times the playing budget we had.
“Saying that I’m still annoyed and we’re all still annoyed that we didn’t take the league last year. We’ll take all the lessons learned, take all the praise and look to get even more praise next year.”
Playing second fiddle to Cork City in a county where the GAA and the Premier League across the channel are kings, Henderson is irked by the ignorance Cork’s sporting public display to his beloved Rams.
“I’ve been constantly asked how Cork City’s success has benefited Cobh Ramblers and football in general in Cork.
“The reality for us is that it hasn’t and in reality it shouldn’t because we have to benefit from our own successes not another clubs .
“We fully accept we are deep in the shadows of illustrious neighbors and we accept that. What we are striving for is basic respect from the football fraternity in cork .
“This alone would be a form of success for us as we strive to be the best we can be. At the moment this is not happening and it frustrates the hell out of me .
“Two days before pre-season our College partners CIT informed us with a one line email that they could not facilitate our training requirements this season!
“Yet I’m looking at Cork City running around training there without a care in the world and we are left scrambling for a training base.
“It's incredibly disrespectful from an institution we have had a good relationship with for almost four years now.
“The irony of us running around with CIT on our jerseys and Cork with UCC across theirs and we are the ones kicked out gives you an idea of how difficult it is for us a club.
“At times we feel like we are in an episode of Stranger Things! Unfortunately we are the lost souls of the underworld screaming to get up for some air but we keep getting dragged back.
“I think one of our main successes has been our promoting of youth players to our senior team from all areas of the county.
“You would imagine this would be welcomed and supported by the leagues but the behavior of Cork Schoolboy League has beggared belief.
“They are refusing to sign transfer forms for young players looking to sign for Ramblers . They are actually actively trying to prevent young players from playing at the highest level in this country.
“Unbelievable nonsense but we will keep moving forward. We will strive to prove that we are a club players can develop and reach their potential and supporters can be proud to wear our badge.”
Henderson heaped praise on those who have rallied around the club in recent times by securing a place to train which could potentially kickstart a new and positive relationship for the club.
“We’re after coming in with Mayfield Community School on very short notice to facilitate us with training facilities and that relationship is developing really well.
“We hope to get in a partnership with them soon. But that’s where we are. We’re constantly fighting in our own corner, seen as this little club down on an island somewhere.”
The Dublin-born former Cork City goalkeeping coach called on more support to come down to St Colman’s Park and will on his charges ahead of the 2018 First Division.
“The reality of it is we’re here, producing some fine football every second week down in Ramblers.
“We’re giving some fine young players in Cork a really good opportunity to go and play at the highest level and I think we should be getting a lot more support than we are getting at the moment.”
Cobh Ramblers kick of their SSE Airtricity League First Division with an away fixture against Longford Town on Saturday, February 24th at City Calling Stadium.