IRISH hopeful Stephen Henderson hopes that he has secured the chance of Premier League football at West Ham next season due to Robert Green's exit from the club.
But Dubliner Henderson admits that he will have to wait a bit longer before he -- or any of the other young pretenders -- can force their way into the Ireland team ahead of Shay Given, despite a disappointing experience for the Ireland No 1 at Euro 2012.
The highly-rated former U21 cap joined the Hammers from cash-strapped Portsmouth on a short-term deal in January but West Ham showed their intentions for the player by signing up on a three-year deal last month.
Henderson was unable to get first-team games at Upton Park due to the form of Green but now that the England man has moved to QPR, it has offered Henderson the chance to stake a claim in the Premier League next term.
Top flight football with the Hammers would strengthen the case at international level for Henderson, who has not been capped at senior level but was called into the squad for the February friendly against the Czech Republic.
But the former Aston Villa, Bristol City and Portsmouth man says it's way too early to write off Shay Given.
"I have nothing but the highest respect for Shay and getting called up to the squad in February to train with the squad and with Shay was one of the highlights of my career as he is one of my idols," Henderson told the Herald today. "I think the criticism that Shay has had since the Euros has been harsh and way over the top, he was nowhere near as bad as people said in the tournament.
"His standards have been so high over the last 10 or so years that when he drops them for even a small bit everyone points the finger and jumps on his back, but he is still one of the top keepers in the game.
"And I hope that Shay stays on with Ireland and carries on, even if that means me waiting a bit longer to maybe get a chance with Ireland.
"The Euros finished on a disappointing note for Shay and the rest of the squad but I think he will prove himself in the next campaign.
"If I can get some games with West Ham in the Premier League next season hopefully I will be in and around the squad and I can push myself forward," added Henderson.
"I came in for one squad last February and enjoyed that, I knew that making the squad for the Euros was a long shot as I wasn't playing for West Ham but if I can get games with the club, maybe I'll have a chance."
Yesterday came the news that Henderson had moved up the ladder with his club due to Green's exit, but he's not taking things for granted.
"It's not the case that I am guaranteed to start the season as number one now, but with Rob leaving I have a real opportunity. It's a chance for me, but it's all down to me now and how I do in our pre-season. I'd like to think it's in my own hands," he says.
"They have signed Jussi Jaaskelainen as well but hopefully it's between the two of us now that Rob Green has gone to QPR, I don't know if they'll bring anyone else in."
Henderson left Portsmouth as part of their cost-cutting measures and while he was unable to get games at West Ham, he did learn from the experience.
"I have been there for a few months now so I was able to show the manager and the people at the club what I can do, even though I wasn't in the team," he says.
"I'd like to think that I made enough of an impression in training and around the club to show what I am about, but that means nothing in the long-term, I know that.
"If I go back for pre-season and don't perform I won't get into the team. It's as simple as that."
There is a short summer break for Henderson and the Hammers players as they report back to the club for pre-season training tomorrow week and the following Monday they head off to Austria for a training camp.