TORONTO – Toronto FC academy product Doneil Henry has joined Premier League outfit West Ham United FC, the two clubs announced on Saturday.
Henry, 21, joins the Hammers’ first-team on a long-term contract after the central defender joined Cypriot outfit Apollon Limassol at the beginning of the 2014 season. Henry was loaned back to Toronto FC in 2014, but after returning to Apollon in the MLS offseason he now completes his transfer to West Ham for an undisclosed fee.
"It feels good to be given the opportunity to come and see what it's like to be part of a great Premier League team and I just want to get started and get into the team really soon," Henry said in a video posted by West Ham United.
Henry has been capped 14 times for the Canadian national team. He was the first player to graduate from the TFC Academy, where he first started at 16 years old. Henry logged 92 first-team appearances since graduating and joining the senior team in 2010, one of the highest appearance totals for any Toronto FC player. But, he’s already itching to start competing for regular minutes at West Ham, too.
"Personally, I want to make my mark as quickly as possible,” Henry said. “The only way to develop is by playing games and putting yourself under pressure. It's good for players to get opportunities so the sooner I can get into the mix the better.”
West Ham currently sits seventh in the Premier League table and manager Sam Allardyce had a first-hand look at Henry last year during a two-and-a-half week training spell with the club. The Hammers completed the signing almost one year later after a recommendation from former TFC manager Ryan Nelsen.
"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 [Nelsen] thinks he will," Allardyce told the official West Ham site. "If not, we hope he is certainly one for the future."
For Toronto FC GM Tim Bezbatchenko, Henry’s move to West Ham is another success story for the TFC Academy and the TFC executive was full of praise for the young Canadian defender.
"We are very happy and excited for Doneil,” Bezbatchenko said in a club statement. “We are happy to have been able to work together to help Doneil develop as a player during his time here and ultimately achieve this significant milestone in his career. On behalf of everyone at Toronto FC we thank Doneil for his many contributions to the club and wish him all the best in his new adventure."
Armen Bedakian covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.