West Ham United and Big Sam bag Canada defender Doneil Henry
West Ham United, 25/1 with Coral for a top four finish, have snapped up Canada international defender Doneil Henry from Cypriot side Apollon Limassol for a rumoured fee of around £1.5m.
The 21-year-old becomes Hammers boss Sam Allardye’s first signing of the January window after agreeing a three-year contract with the east London club.
Highly-rated Henry spent last season on loan at MLS side Toronto, where he worked under former Blackburn Rovers skipper Ryan Nelson, who tipped the top prospect for a Premier League future and duly recommended him to former coach Big Sam.
Ontario-born Henry is a strong, 6ft 2in centre half also capable of operating as a right back and had spent time training with West Ham before agreeing a deal.
The 14-capped Cannucks star gave Hammers fans an insight of what to expect from him, stating: “I love a tackle and I just want to defend hard. I take pride in my clean sheets with the backline and with the keeper, so if we can just do that, it’s job completed.”
Big Sam’s decision to move so swiftly for the no-nonsense defender has understandably raised questions about the immediate future of centre back Winston Reid, whose contract expires this summer.
This could be the Hammers’ final chance to sell New Zealand international Reid before he becomes a free agent, with Arsenal said to be one of many clubs circling for the accomplished centre back’s signature.
Reid has been an integral part of a strong West Ham spine that has surprised fans with a sensational start to the season and seen the club become possible contenders for a European spot.
Big Sam’s ability to mount a serious challenge for the top four, or even top six, will rely heavily on keeping all his key players together.
The Upton Park club are already losing several stars to the African Cup of Nations in January and allowing Reid to exit at the same time would surely stall their progress.
With no news of a deal in the works, West Ham could well cash in on their top defender this winter, but may be wiser to cling on to the Kiwi until the end of the campaign to ensure they finish in the highest position possible.
This would allow youngster Henry to spend half a season bedding in to the tough realities of life in the Premier League and hopefully give the Hammers a ready-made replacement and partner for James Collins in the summer.
Certainly, Big Sam does not seem to have any immediate plans to throw his new signing straight into the fray, saying: “We have invested in him for the near future, so we do hope he can make some sort of appearance this season if he settles in and does as well as Ryan thinks he will.”
“If not, we hope he is certainly one for the future”, said Allardyce, who is 4/1 to guide his side to a top six finish.
Henry’s future may come quicker than expected, however, if the likes of Arsenal or Liverpool test West Ham’s resolve with a truly tempting offer this transfer window.