The chance to play for Luton Town and a shot at promotion to the Football League was an offer that Newport County winger Charlie Henry felt he couldn’t refuse.
The 24-year-old is back at Kenilworth Road with a point to prove after the Hatters let him go in his teens – as an academy teammate of Keith Keane – saying he was too small to make it with them.
But manager Richard Money thought otherwise and, after a goalscoring performance for his former club in a 1-1 draw in Luton, he brought the England C international back to where it all started.
“When I met him, he said that I scored and cost him two points,” said Henry on his first meeting with Money. “But it was quite a thing for me to come back and score after getting released as a kid.
“The atmosphere that night was something that I felt I wanted to be apart of.”
The Stevenage-born midfielder, who arrives on an initial loan deal with a permanent switch to be confirmed when the January transfer window opens, added: “I got the call on Wednesday night from [Newport manager] Dean Holdsworth.
“He said that Luton had put a bid in a couple of weeks ago, but nothing came of it. They came in again on Wednesday and the club accepted the bid.
“To be fair, it was quite hard to leave [County] because I had two great years there, won the league last year and started well this year. I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity.”
Luton were a Football League club when Henry was told his services wouldn’t be required, but he went on to make his mark in non-league football and now he wants to help the Hatters back to League Two.
“It’s great to be back. I loved my time when I was here before, I know a few of the boys and I’m relishing my chance to play. I can’t wait.
“This is such a big club. It’s a league club playing in the Conference and I want to get out of it and get in the league with Luton.
“From what I know and what I’ve seen, the squad is unbelievable as it is. Hopefully I can try and add something to it.”
Henry was cup tied for yesterday’s FA Cup Second Round match with Charlton Athletic, but should be available for selection for Tuesday night’s Blue Square Bet Premier top-of-the-table clash at AFC Wimbledon. If he features, it could be quite a debut, but having played all of the top three teams in the division while at the Exiles, Henry is certain he is now at the best club in the Conference.
“From what I’ve seen, Luton are the strongest side I’ve played against,” he said. “AFC were good but Luton were strong and the squad shows that. We should go up this year.”
And on big spending rivals Crawley Town, the newest Hatter believes there’s nothing to fear.
“They’ve got all the money haven’t they? They are a good side but I think there are better in the league.”
But the strength and depth that Money has added to his squad of late means it will be no walk in the park for Henry to claim a regular first team spot, though he is prepared to fight for his chance.
He said: “I spoke to the gaffer because he’s got a lot of wingers, but he just thought I might offer another dimension. I like to come in-field and play, so maybe I’m a different kind of option to the other wingers.
“I couldn’t turn it down. It is such a big opportunity and such a big club.
Everything is in place here. Plus, I can move home so it all fitted perfectly and it’s a dream move.” Money said: “He’s a bright spark and I think he’ll be a good person to have in the dressing room and on the pitch.
“I saw him play extremely well against Stevenage in pre-season and against us here [at Kenilworth Road].
“He meets the profile – in terms of permanent signings – because he’s young, he’s hungry to prove himself and desperate for a chance. He’s local and was released from here as a young boy, so he’s got a point to prove and he ticks a lot of the boxes. He’s a wide midfield player, a winger with pace. He can beat people, can combine and adds to our creative players.
“We now have four front line strikers with Taiwo Atieno suddenly proving himself to be what we knew he was. He’s scoring goals and there’s real competition in the central striker position with Matthew Barnes-Homer, Danny Crow, Atieno and Jason Walker.
“Now in the wide areas we have Claude Gnakpa, Henry, Amari Morgan-Smith and Andy Drury.”