The 2023/24 season could be a rather memorable one for Wayne Hennessey.
The goalkeeper is just three international caps shy of Gareth Bale’s Welsh record – with a stack of Euro 2024 qualifiers and friendlies ahead, the 36-year-old could overtake Bale and become the most capped player in Wales’ history.
At club level, Hennessey could be set to enjoy his final fling as a Premier League player – his Nottingham Forest contract expires at the end of the campaign which, given he turns 37 in January, seems a long-shot be renewed.
In customary Hennessey fashion, the Bangor man will no doubt be giving it is all no matter what happens…
Better Late Than Never
For Hennessey to sign off on a high note, his Nottingham Forest team will have to overcome the odds once again. They are one of the most popular Premier League bets for relegation, with their odds shortened to 11/5 after a flurry of market activity behind only Luton Town (4/11) and Sheffield United (4/7).
The size of the Tricky Trees’ task is outlined by the Arsenal v Nottm Forest betting odds for the opening day of the season, with the Gunners priced at just 5/8 to win – an implied probability of nearly 82%. At odds of 11/1 (9%), Forest looks to be a forlorn hope.
Steve Cooper’s side beat Arsenal at the City Ground in May, as part of a mini-run which also included victory over high-flying Brighton and a draw at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. That highlights how late Forest left it to secure their Premier League status for another year, but also confirms how difficult an opponent they were at times too.
Getting off to a better start this time – the Midlanders lost six of their opening eight games last term – will help to ease those relegation fears, at which point Forest can start to enjoy their football a bit more, spearheaded by some fine young talents like Taiwo Awoniyi, who notched six goals in his side’s last four outings of the campaign.
How much football Hennessey gets to enjoy in 2023/24 is another matter…
On the Bench
His season was condemned to just three Premier League appearances last term, with two rival goalkeepers – Dean Henderson and Keylor Navas – ahead of the Welshman in Cooper’s pecking order.
They were both only at the club on loan with no guarantee of a return, so while the rumour mill swirls about the possibility of one or both re-joining Forest for the forthcoming campaign, at the time of writing the only senior goalkeepers at the club are Hennessey and Ethan Horvath.
The latter spent the entirety of last season on loan at Luton Town, helping the Hatters to promotion. And it’s Horvath, rather than Hennessey, that has been selected between the sticks for much of Forest’s pre-season campaign – including the 0-1 defeat to Dutch outfit PSV on July 30.
So it may be a year of more frustration for Hennessey, whose most likely action will come on the international circuit with Wales. His main rival for the goalkeeping jersey, Danny Ward, has lost his place at Leicester City, so the 36-year-old – who played in two of the Dragons’ three World Cup 2022 games – could well be pressed into action by Rob Page in Wales’ bid to qualify for Euro 2024.
Just four more caps will be enough to ensure that Hennessey is – for the time being at least – the most capped player in his country’s history. That would be a fitting way to end the career of the enduring shot stopper.