THE DEATH of Colin Henderson is sad news for Boro fans indeed. Although he has not had the lasting influence and profile of Steve Gibson nor the cultural impact of Keith Lamb, and although few younger fans could put the name to the face, if indeed they even knew the name, his significance in saving Boro back in 1986 can not be under-estimated.
Current king-pin Steve Gibson was certainly the main driver behind the consortium that put together the precious package that averted the broken and bankrupt club slipping into the abyss of liquidation and envelope king Henry Moszcowicz, now effectively airbrushed out of history, deserves a mention too for coming up with a lot of cash at short notice when the tally fell agonisingly short on deadline day.
But Colin Henderson contributed something equally important to the club’s salvation: he delivered ICI. Henderson, a lifelong fans, was an executive at Wilton, a big player in the corporate politics of Teesside’s biggest employer and biggest player. That the company trusted his instinct and acumen and were ready to back his judgement in supporting the Gibson plan was a pivotal point in the close fought battle for survival.
The presence of ICI was crucial. It persuaded fellow consortium members Scottish and Newcastle to climb aboard and also convinced both Boro’s creditors and the Football League that the rescue plan had credibility and substance. With ICI on board the plans had legs and political capital. For that we must be eternally grateful.
As a chairman of the fledgling new club he was remarkably effective too. In brought in Keith Lamb and together they helped Boro pick their way through the debris of debt to balance the books, rebuild the reputation of the club and find funds to support Bruce Rioch as he guided his team to two successive promotions. He acted decisively to put aside emotion to axe Rioch as he floundered too, and again quickly when Colin Todd also lost his way and brought in Lennie Lawrence to regain momentum.
Perhaps equally important he was never precious about control of the club. He did not see it as a personal fiefdom. He did not dig his feet in. There was no damaging power struggle. He had plans to redevelop Ayresome Park and send Boro down the direction of a wider community club but ran into planning and financial hurdles. And when Gibson responded with a new vision and new funds in 1994, Henderson stepped aside and handed over the reins with no back-biting or mud-slinging.
I personally crossed swords with him on many an occasion as then chairman of the local Football Supporters Association. We argued frequently and passionately over thinks like ID cards, policing, fences, facilities and the potential role of fans in the clubs. But he was always courteous, professional and willing to listen, and on occasion take ideas on board from people he saw as equally committed to the club. And there was never an sense of personal antipathy from him. It was just part of the job.
Colin Henderson was a good and effective chairman at a crucial point in the club’s history. He deserves some recognition and a lot of thanks for that.