Former Bury Town loanee Alex Henderson turns down deal at Ipswich Town to move to the USA
With a professional appearance at Ipswich Town now behind him, it would have been easy for Alex Henderson to take up the League One club’s offer of extending his scholarship into a third year.
But the player who ended the 2019/20 season on a work experience loan at Bury Town will instead be spending the next four years challenging himself to earn a degree in the USA while continuing to develop on the pitch with a football scholarship.
The 18-year-old is set to fly out to Atlanta in August to embark on a new exciting chapter in his life at Georgia State University.
“My parents had some friends whose children had gone across to America and had a great time and that planted the seed in my mind that it could be an option,” he said.
“At first it was very much going to be a back-up to getting a deal at Ipswich. But as I got further into finding what it’s all about and what the options were it became something I wanted to pursue.
“If there had been a professional contract it might have made the decision a bit harder but I don’t think that is to say I would have definitely taken the pro.
“Education is something I have always taken quite seriously and is something I wanted to pursue further.
“It just so happened that the university option gave me the ability to play football at a good level whilst also getting a good education, so I think that is what sold it to me the most.”
The central defender, who had been playing with Bury Town since the end of November until the lockdown, is yet to pick what he will study. But history, which he has an A-Level in, is one he is considering.
And Henderson certainly does not see the switch as the end of his chance of becoming a fully-fledged professional footballer.
“The soccer side of things has definitely grown over there and the coach I have been talking to has been sending over some games and it is a very similar quality to some academy games,” he said.
“If I want to try and get back into being a professional footballer I won’t have missed out on four years of being at Ipswich.”
Having had these plans in the pipeline for a while, including visiting Georgia State University in February, ahead of Town’s offer a few weeks before the Covid-19 lockdown kicked in, he praised the academy coaches for their help.
“They have been great as they have for the eight years I’ve been there,” said the Boxford-raised player.
“Even when I decided that was the option I wanted to take they have been supportive and helping me through the entire process.”
Making his first-team bow in December’s Leasing.com (EFL) Trophy tie at Peterborough United, which saw Ipswich win on penalties after a 1-1 draw, is one of the most special memories he will take away of his time at the club.
“It was a bit of a crazy experience as it did come out of nowhere when I was told that there was a chance I might be in the squad to then actually starting,” he revealed.
“At the start I was definitely very nervous.
“It was one of those games where you did not know what to expect but it was just a football match at the end of the day and if I watch it back I can see myself growing into it as I realised that.
“It was such an amazing experience to be able to play.”
Looking back at his time in the Isthmian League North Division with Bury, where he made 12 appearances after coming over with Tommy Smith to help with an injury crisis, he added: “I really, really enjoyed my time at Bury and will look back on it very fondly.
“I think I learnt so much in the men’s game that I would not have learnt just playing under-18s football.”
Henderson leaves Ipswich having had his hard work during his scholarship both on and off the pitch recognised by being named in the League Football Education’s ‘The 11’ for June.