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Ronnie 469: A history of our record breaking captain

14 January 2018

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Having now broken Mark Smith's historic appearance record, we take a look back at Ronnie Henry's time at the club...

Ronnie Henry started his career as a young boy with Tottenham Hotspur, the club his family supported and the club his grandfather, Ron Henry, spent over 50 years of his life at.

A defender, just like his grandfather, Henry was released by his boyhood club at the age of 17 after struggling to make an impression on the First Team.

In 2004 Henry made the bold move to join Dublin City where he spent just 6 months before being released due to financial issues at the football club.

Out of the English footballing picture and without a clear direction, Graham Westley took a chance on Henry and signed him on a six month deal that turned out to be one of the best decisions the club ever made.

It was the perfect fit. Henry was a revelation and became an ever-present as Stevenage reached the Conference play-off final in 2005, where Carlisle United triumphed 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium.

During the following season, Westley went, Stimson came, and Henry found himself playing a portion of the season in what would now seem an unusual central midfield role.

Despite briefly losing the captaincy, Henry soon regained it and in May, became the first player to lift a trophy at the new Wembley Stadium. Still brought up as one of his most memorable moments at the club, Stevenage came back from two goals down to beat Kidderminster Harriers 3-2 in the 2007 FA Trophy final.

Henry believes it was the moment that set Stevenage on their way to an unprecedented period of success and Player of the Year honours also followed, as the skipper capped a stellar season with the club.

Not everything went smoothly and history could have been oh-so different. Close to leaving in January 2008 after being put on the transfer list by Peter Taylor, the return of Graham Westley saw a new contract signed and an exciting, trophy-laden era at Stevenage ready to get underway.

The FA Trophy was won once again won in 2009 as Steve Morison and Lee Boylan struck at Wembley to beat York 2-0. Although not captain at the time, Henry was once again ever present throughout the campaign.

Having knocked on the door for a number of years, promotion to the Football League was finally confirmed in 2010 as Stevenage romped to the league title with 99 points and just 24 goals conceded, keeping 27 clean sheets.

Such a fierce defensive record meant more individual honours for Henry, earning a place in the Conference Team of the Year alongside Mark Roberts and Scott Laird.

To date, he describes promotion to the Football League as his crowning achievement at the club.

Things would only get better. In Boro’s first ever season in the Football League, Henry helped anchor the team to the best defensive record in the division and a second successive promotion. Henry was part of a huge FA Cup upset over Newcastle United in 2011, helping right the wrongs of '98.

With the club at the heady heights of League One, Henry’s time at Stevenage was drawing to a close. After Westley left the club for a second time, Gary Smith came in and made the brave and ultimately, painful decision to let him know that he was surplus to requirements.

Before leaving, Henry did get the opportunity to play at his beloved White Hart Lane, following another incredible FA Cup journey that saw Stevenage take Tottenham to a Fifth Round Replay.

Hurt, Henry made the short move to Luton, in the best interests of him and his family. Although offers from clubs further afar were on the table, with his children still in school, the controversial move was taken.

Most players would have been derided for leaving to join local rivals, but seven years of service brought him understanding and love from the fans.

Described as the most challenging part of his career, Henry eventually succeeded in captaining Luton to the Conference title in his second season at the club, his main aim all along.

Still with unfinished business, Henry returned home in the summer of 2014, much to the delight of the Stevenage supporters. A contract at Luton was one the table, but it was very much “job done” from Henry’s point of view.

Joining back up with Graham Westley as the team embarked on another push for promotion from League Two, Henry was beginning to edge closer towards history as Mark Smith’s record was beginning to appear a real possibility.

Falling just short at Southend in the Play-Off semi-finals, Henry came back to a team where only a few players remained from the one he left, the clubs longest serving player with his biggest leadership role yet.

Able to draw on his own experiences from the past, nobody understands Stevenage quite like Ronnie Henry and nobody demands more from himself and the players on a day-to-day basis.

Still playing every week and still just as crucial to Stevenage, Henry continues to display these values now playing under and working alongside, Darren Sarll.

There have been players from our past that thrilled supporters more. There have been players from our past that played at a higher level. There have certainly been players that have scored more.

But there will never be a player that has shown more dedication, consistency and fight for the Stevenage cause as this historic achievement will attest.

One Ronnie Henry.

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