Niall Henderson is excited for the future with Annagh United after picking up the NI Football Awards Premier Intermediate League Player of the Year after impressing during the Portadown-based club’s promotion campaign.
The experienced midfielder had been in the final three for the award at the end of the 2018-19 season and came out on top this time after leading Annagh into the second tier for the first time in their history.
“I’m delighted. It was tough the way the season ended up, but as a team we were the number one team in the league through the season and to get an individual award on top of that means a lot,” said Henderson upon receiving the award.
The 32-year-old, who played full-time football in both Scotland and England in his younger days, is now relishing the step up with Annagh, while waiting patiently to find out when the Championship season will begin.
“The season before we were just pipped by Queen’s, but that was a stepping stone towards where we wanted to go,” he said.
“Promotion was then our number one target and we were delighted to get over the line.
“Now we’re looking forward to what will be a big Championship campaign for the club.”
When the season does begin the highest expectation for Annagh will come from within the club itself, with Henderson setting a long-term goal of becoming one of the leading lights in the division.
“The club has progressed a lot, particularly in the last couple of seasons,” said Henderson.
“Year-on-year we have consistently built and if we can consolidate in the Championship then over the next couple of years we’ll be looking to push in and around the top of the table.”
With his vast experience, including a Scottish Cup runners-up medal with Gretna when they lost on penalties to Hearts back in 2006 at just 18-years-old as well as many years in the Irish Premiership, Henderson is now passing on what he has learned to the younger members of the Annagh United squad.
That will be invaluable, but he believes there is no shortage of talent in the squad.
“I played in the Championship one season with Portadown and it’s a very different league than playing in the Premiership and I think it’s a bigger step up from the PIL,” he said.
“It will be a test for all of our players, but we have a lot of good young players in the squad and hopefully they can step up to the level that is required in the Championship.”