Barker, Radford, Biggs, Wood, Corbett, O’Sullivan, Reagan or McDonald; ask a random stranger in the street to name their favourite Ronnie and there’s no shortage of options. They’d be feckin’ confuddled, if not downright scared. But they’d still have a big ol’list to choose from. And Ronnie Moore. Even us as Boro’ fans get to choose from one of three if we had to. With all due respect to Ronnies Lawson and Lear, however, it is surely the third of Boro’s Three Ronnies that would get the vote from young and old alike. That man is, clearly, Ronnie Henry.
Ronnie Stephen Henry, born unto us on 2 January 1984, has become more than your average Boro’ player. It’ll take incredible selection bantz from General Sarllito up at Morecambe to stop him overtaking fellow defender Mark Smith in our all-time appearances list. He’ll have donned the various reds and whites of Stevenage a mere 469 times in two stints spread across all but 13 years. And it’s an achievement you really can’t sniff at. Trust us folks, you will never see a day like this again. No-one will come close to setting a new record after him.
Ronnie Henry: Doing It The Broadhall Way
Ronnie Henry, as we all know, comes from good footballing stock. His grandfather, Ron Henry, was a member of the Spurs Double-winning side of 1960-1. Our Ron’s time at Spurs, however, didn’t follow suit. After turning pro at the Lane aged 17, the closest he got to a first team appearance was as an unused sub at Old Trafford in 2002. We can easily pour scorn on Spurs’ judgement for overlooking Ronnie, however. This was the team, after all, that thought Goran Bunjevcevic and Gary Doherty were Premier League quality at that point in time.
Spurs’ loss was our gain, eventually. Before arriving at Boro’, Ronnie crossed the water to Dublin’s Fair City to play for, er, Dublin City. After 12 appearances there, he had to leave due to the club’s financial problems. Now into some form of footballing wilderness, GW Mk I swooped to sign him in January 2005. His debut came in a Conference Cup match at Ebbsfleet United, and he made a further 17 appearances as Boro’ made the playoff final that term. Who could know, at that time, there was another 450 outings to come from him?
GW went in 2006, and Stimmo came in. If his time at Spurs didn’t pan out in the same way as his grandfather’s, he did – at least – get to follow in his footsteps in one small way. With us winning the 2006-7 FA Trophy, it was Ronnie who led the side up the steps at Wembley. In doing so, he became the first-ever captain to lift a trophy at the ‘new’ Wembley. You can never take that away from him, either. It’s a nifty pub quiz question too. But it wouldn’t be Boro’ if it was all plain sailing. And as a case in point, Stimmo was gone just a few months later.
Outliving, Outlasting and Out the Door?
Henry’s third manager was Peter Taylor and the less said about his management the better. All we’ll say about the 2007-8 campaign is Ronnie scored twice. TWICE. The same number as Mitchell Cole and Tyrone Berry; more than Tesfaye Bramble, Ollie Allen and Calum Willock. Half his entire haul for us! Anyway, on we move and GW’s return in 2008; an appointment that laid big foundations. The first season was a warm-up act. We missed out in the playoffs, but did lift the FA Trophy again. Ronnie played; however, it was Moro’ who led our side that day.
Boro’s stock continued to rise in 2009 and 2010 and, with it, the legendary status of the players that made it happen. Ronnie was one of them. Hell, why use the past tense? Ronnie is one of them. A member of our much-adored Conference-winning side, the centre-back-now-right-back was back playing in the Football League for the first time since a short loan spell at Southend United back in 2003. Up the rise continued; Newcastle in the FA Cup, promotion from League Two and another famous cup run in the 2011-2 season.
Back to Spurs, it was. Back on the pitch that he had hopes of turning out on regularly as a teenager. Like Chris Day, to be fair, back at a club that perhaps didn’t give them the chance they deserved. One last hurrah, this time under new gaffer Gary Smith, saw Boro’ briefly lead Tottenham in the Fifth Round replay. If only, eh? By the end of the season, however, he was gone. With near-enough 300 appearances under his belt, it was the end of an era as Ronnie moved on. And to Luton Town of all clubs. Sometimes, football can be very unromantic.
The Return of the Prodigal Son
That said, Ronnie left the Lamex with only five others making more appearances for Boro’. This, of course, is based on the stats available to us. With 167 line-ups still at large, two more could’ve been above him at that point in time. As captain of Luton, Ronnie had the ‘honour’ of leading them to the Conference title in 2014 and a league record 23 clean sheets. See? He’s all about records. He didn’t stick around at the Hatters. His contract was up that summer, and the chance to rejoin us with GW back in charge (again) was a no-brainer.
Well, it so often is when Luton are involved.
Since his return to the Lamex three summers ago, Ronnie has played under two more managers. That takes his tally to six gaffers, not including the two times GW came back. We reckon that must be a record for a player at Boro’ too, although Martin Gittings might be in a similar position. Our levels of success haven’t been as, well, there. But Ronnie Henry has. And, at the age of 34, could still be this time next year too. If he is, he won’t have just set the appearance record, but smashed it. Do you think he’s written a bonus into his contract?
It’s irrelevant if Ronnie breaks the all-time appearances record by one this weekend and quits there and then at Morecambe. And it’s irrelevant if he plays on and moves 50 appearances clear of Smudger. The fact remains that it’s a record we won’t see broken again. It’ll forever be Ronnie Henry’s name in our history books. Players simply don’t stick at a club for long enough these days. Apart from Daisy, no-one else in our current squad have stuck around half as long. Gawd, he’s now even outlasted the North Stand ferchrissakes…