Canadian defender Henry poised to join West Ham

Toronto FC defender Doneil Henry, right, heads the ball past Montreal Impact forward Marco Di Vaio. (Nathan Denette/CP)

TORONTO — It appears Canadian international defender Doneil Henry is getting his wish to play in Europe, only not in Cyprus as originally thought.

Two sources confirmed Saturday the 21-year-old from Brampton, Ont., is headed to West Ham United in the English Premier League, pending a work permit hearing Monday.

The move would cap a strange year for Henry, whose sale to a Cypriot club was shrouded in secrecy for months.

Toronto confirmed in August that Henry had been sold to the Cyprus club in March/April, only to be loaned back to the MLS team. Neither Toronto nor Henry would initially name the team, later identified as Apollon Limassol.

At the end of the MLS season, Toronto said Henry's loan period was up but could be extended.

Henry, who has made no secret of his desire to play in Europe, spent 2 1/2 weeks training with West Ham prior to the 2014 MLS season.

"It was awesome," Henry said in March. "I really enjoyed it. They were great guys, great coaching staff. They were really welcoming."

The time at West Ham was facilitated by then-Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen, who captained Blackburn Rovers under Sam Allardyce, who now manages the Hammers.

Nelsen, who was fired by Toronto at the end of August, was a big Henry backer.

"He'll go to the top," Nelsen predicted in May. "I had to buy Sam Allardyce a couple of bottles of red just to get him back, to tell you the truth.

"No he'll go to the top, there's no question about that. He's got all the tools."

England's Daily Mail, quoting its own sources, said Allardyce believes Henry is "raw, but talented." The Mail says West Ham is looking for a replacement for New Zealand defender Winston Reid, whose contract is expiring.

A source told The Canadian Press that top Portuguese side Porto was also interested in Henry.

Toronto FC had no comment on the West Ham move.

Henry was the first player from Toronto FC's academy to graduate to the first team when he signed a pro contract in August 2010.

He went on to play 70 league games, making 19 starts this season. But rookie Nick Hagglund was favoured as the campaign wore on. While athletically gifted, Henry made a few costly mistakes.

West Ham stood fourth in the Premier League after play Saturday with a 9-4-4 record.

Henry's quest for a work permit will not be helped by Canada's current world ranking of No. 122. But he has figured prominently under current national team manager Benito Floro.

Should Henry join West Ham, he'd follow in the top-tier footsteps of such former Canadian internationals as Jim Brennan (Norwich City), Craig Forrest (West Ham, Chelsea, Ipswich), Tomasz Radzinski (Everton, Fulham) and Paul Stalteri (Tottenham).

Terry Dunfield, David Edgar, Junior Hoilett, Simeon Jackson, Jimmy Nicholl and Frank Yallop also played with clubs in England's top division.

Hoilett, who has yet to declare his international allegiance, currently plays for Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League.