Obituary: Jackie Henderson

Swashbuckling centre-forward

THE SCOTTISH international footballer Jackie Henderson was a one- man forward line. The swashbuckling, pacy raider, feted by admiring contemporaries as quick enough to catch pigeons in his 1950s heyday, occupied every attacking position in a 13-year top-flight career during which he excelled with Portsmouth, failed to settle with Wolves, then served Arsenal impressively before falling prey to injury at Fulham.

Everything Henderson did was carried out at high velocity, and most aspects of his work were of impeccable quality. His running was hard and direct, he packed an explosive shot in either foot, and he was adept at crossing at speed, all of which made him a fearsome proposition for opposing defenders, although occasionally his hurry to control an awkwardly bouncing ball would let him down.

Frequently he featured on the wing, mostly the left, but he was a dashing centre-forward at heart, and was far more combative than most flankmen of his day, many of whom withered at the merest scowl from a hulking full- back. Not so the muscular Henderson, who relished a physical contest, be it in the air or on the ground, and raw courage earned him many a goal.

Unusually for a sports-mad young Glaswegian, he didn't play football at school, but tasted his first action with a church team near his home in Bishopbriggs. Soon he graduated to Kirkintilloch Boys Club, where his potential was spotted by a Portsmouth scout in 1948.

Later that year he enlisted as an amateur at Fratton Park, turning professional in January 1949 with a club on the threshold of the most glorious interlude in its history. That season and the next, Pompey won the League title with a beautifully balanced team renowned more for comradeship and co- ordination than for star individuals, and it is a telling tribute to the raw 19-year-old's progress that he was entrusted with spearheading such an eminent attack for most of the 1951/52 campaign.

After making his debut against Sunderland in the autumn, Henderson featured regularly, totalling eight goals in 27 appearances as Portsmouth finished fourth in the old First Division table. His vigour and verve complemented the more measured skills of the inside-forward Len Phillips, he linked neatly with the flying winger Peter Harris and he provided an industrious, ever-willing target for the perceptive dispatches of the wing-halves Jimmy Scoular and Jimmy Dickinson.

There followed two down-table terms, but Henderson continued to flourish, demonstrating his adaptability by appearing frequently on the left wing and at inside-forward, then returning to centre-forward to shine alongside local boy Johnny Gordon as Pompey rose to third in 1954/55.

By then he was a full international - his case advanced by the fervent advocacy of his countryman Scoular - and, having impressed while winning his first cap as an outside-right against Sweden in 1953, he consolidated with further enterprising displays at centre-forward and on the left flank.

Back on the club scene, Pompey slid inexorably towards the foot of the First Division as the decade wore on and in March 1958, having netted 70 goals in 217 League outings for the Fratton Park club, Henderson joined the new champions elect, Wolverhampton Wanderers, in a pounds 16,000 deal.

Given his direct, all-action style, Henderson seemed a natural for Stan Cullis's aggressive, strong, long-passing side, but he didn't fit in at Molineux, being unable to unseat steady performers such as Jimmy Murray and Norman Deeley, and only seven months later he was transferred to Arsenal for pounds 20,000.

Never mind that he had enabled Wolves to turn a quick profit, it seemed that the Highbury boss George Swindin had pulled off a considerable coup in capturing a 26-year-old Scottish international in his prime, and it was expected that the newcomer would bring a fresh, incisive dimension to an Arsenal team in the throes of transition.

Henderson could hardly have started life as a Gunner more auspiciously, netting on debut with two flashing headers in a rousing 4-3 home victory over West Bromwich Albion, and he continued to spark through the remainder of the 1958/59 season, contributing a dozen strikes to Arsenal's creditable third-place finish.

He did so well, in fact, that he earned a fleeting recall to his country's colours late in 1958, which was no small achievement at a time when Scotland's attacking ranks were dripping with sumptuous talent, the likes of Denis Law, John White, Ian St John and any number of others, a stark and poignant contrast with the dearth of quality available to the national coach in the early years of the 21st century.

But that Arsenal team never quite gelled, receding into mid-table over the next two terms, and arguably Henderson became a victim of his own versatility, his consistency dipping as Swindin experimented with numerous forward options. Despite having impressed in a deep-lying creative role as well as in his customary front-line berths, the 30-year-old was released to join Fulham, perennial top-flight strugglers, for pounds 14,000 in January 1962.

Though past his pomp, he acquitted himself manfully for the Craven Cottage club, helping them to steer clear of relegation in two successive seasons, only for a broken leg suffered at Blackburn in March 1963 to signal an effective end to his senior career. Henderson managed a handful of games during the following term, but his trademark pace had declined, understandably, and in the summer of 1964 he entered the non-League ranks with Poole Town.

Not that the still-enthusiastic veteran was looking for an easy billet. In 1964/65 he was vastly influential as he helped his new club gain promotion to the Southern League Premier Division, then in 1967 he began four years of sterling service with Dorchester Town of the Western League, not ending his playing days until 1971, when he was nearing 40.

Henderson, an amiable fellow and a lively dressing-room spirit, had remained passionate about the game and had been keen to put something back at the lower level, an objective he achieved comprehensively and for which he deserved immense credit.

Later he spent 30 years as a storeman for a builders' merchant in the Poole area, and was a regular attender of Pompey reunions until the onset of his final illness.

I

John Gillespie Henderson, footballer: born Glasgow 17 January 1932; played for Portsmouth 1951-58, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1958, Arsenal 1958-62, Fulham 1962-64; capped seven times for Scotland 1953-58; married (two sons); died Poole, Dorset 26 January 2005.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?