What will Dean Henderson add to Nottingham Forest

Francis Moore
By Francis Moore
9 Min Read
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Nottingham Forest announced their second signing of the season last weekend, as England international Dean Henderson arrived on-loan from Manchester United, here’s everything he will bring to the newly-promoted side.

First and foremost, Nottingham Forest finally understand who their starting goalkeeper will be next season. It seemed certain Forest were always going to add a new goalkeeper in the summer, and with reports emerging of Brice Samba potentially moving back to France, there was a glaring hole in the Forest line-up. Dean Henderson comfortably fills this void, as a big upgrade on the soon-to-be departing Samba.

Dean Henderson impressed no end over his two-years at Sheffield United, helping them achieve promotion to the Premier League and nearly finish in a Europa league spot the following campaign. After his return to Manchester United in the 2020/21 season, the 25-year-old shared the starting spot with David De Gea, making 13 league appearances, and amassing five clean sheets in the process.

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Going into their first season back in the Premier League, Nottingham Forest needs someone they can depend on between the sticks. Brice Samba did an excellent job in helping the Reds get promoted – with his play-off heroics earning Steve Cooper’s side a place at Wembley – but there can be no denying that Henderson is an improvement on the former Caen shot-stopper. During his time in the Premier League, Henderson received plaudits for being an excellent goalkeeper, and was rightfully described as the next number one at Old Trafford.

Not only is he great with his hands, but Dean Henderson is also a fine example of the modern goalkeeper, who has the ability and confidence to help play the ball out from the back – something Samba didn’t do all too often.  Being comfortable with his feet could be key for Nottingham Forest this season. Last season, Forest often played out from the back through Joe Worrall and Scott Mckenna. Henderson’s ball-playing ability give Forest a third option when it comes to playing the ball out from the defence, with the Man Utd loanee able to dish the ball out to one of the two centre-halves, or play accurate balls forward allowing for quicker transitions down the field.

Crucially, Henderson brings with him a lot of Premier League experience. The English international has racked up 47 top-flight appearances, across three seasons, keeping 17 clean sheets in the process. Following their promotion from the Championship, Steve Cooper’s side only had a couple of players with significant Premier League experience, in the form of Jack Colback and Steve Cook. both of these players could be seeing reduced game times this season as more quality is being added, but Dean Henderson is likely to remain Forest’s Number 1 for the duration of the campaign.

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After his breakout seasons at Sheffield United, Henderson looked ready to break into Manchester United’s starting line-up as De Gea continued to underperform. However, last season took a different turn, with De Gea securing the goalkeeper position – playing all 38 league games. Senior figures at Man United must still see Henderson as a key player for the future, only allowing the keeper to join Forest temporarily with no option to buy – which Forest sought after heavily.

Even on a short-term basis, Henderson is a big coup for Nottingham Forest, as he no doubt would have been a welcomed addition at many Premier League sides. Losing out on an option to buy could come back to bite Forest, however, who have since been priced out of moves for Djed Spence and Keinan Davis – after both impressed on loan last campaign.

It’s a shame to lose Brice Samba, who has been fantastic for Nottingham Forest over his three seasons at the City Ground, but after the relationship broke down behind the scenes, it seems like the right decision was made for the Congolese man to move on and there can be no denying Henderson is a big improvement.

There could be some concerns with his lack of game time over the past year, but having to compete with an improved De Gea for the starting role at Manchester United, any keeper would have struggled to break into the starting 11.

Author’s verdict

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Overall, this is a statement of intent for Nottingham Forest, signing one of the Premier League’s top goalkeepers as a newly promoted side. Forest had one of the best defences in the Championship last season, something they’re going to need to carry into the campaign if they don’t want to end up in the relegation spots come next May. The signing of Henderson should help build on the defensive stability Steve Cooper’s side have become known for.

Losing Brice Samba is not the best way to start a return to the Premier League, but Dean Henderson is a far better option between the sticks. He’s a better shot-stopper and his ability on the ball should add something extra to this Forest side.

I do still have some concerns about the deal itself. Only a one-year loan deal, with no option to buy, means Forest will once again be searching for a new goalkeeper next season – may be a deal could be struck further down the line, or Ethan Horvath could claim the starting spot if he impresses on-loan at Luton, but let’s worry about that later. Also, as Henderson is on-loan from Manchester United, he is unable to feature against the Red Devils. There are rumours Burnley’s Wayne Hennessey will arrive at the City Ground in the coming days, but until any deal is over the line, Jordan Smith will be the one starting at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

Before the transfer window opened, I don’t think any fans expected to see a keeper of Henderson’s calibre joining Nottingham Forest, highlighting just how impressive of a signing this is. His arrival has dramatically improved Forest’s chances of survival overnight. Having struggled to nail down the starting berth at Manchester United, this could be Henderson’s last chance to impress his bosses over in Manchester – helping keep Forest in the Premier League could be all he needs to show he’s the perfect replacement for an ageing De Gea. Forest now have a top-quality goalkeeper, and Dean Henderson gets the chance to prove himself to Erik Ten Haag and Gareth Southgate, this is an excellent move for all parties.

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