Former Chairman Colin Henderson: Respect. And Thanks.

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.

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14 thoughts on “Former Chairman Colin Henderson: Respect. And Thanks.

  1. His influence and the part he played in the clubs survival must never be forgotten. I hope the club can recognise this, if not let us fans organise a tribute to him. Condolences to his family and friends. Thanks for everything.

  2. Living away from Teesside for many years I was never sure of his contribution so many thanks for the update.
    It is always a sad time so condolences to his family and not because he is a an unsung Boro hero but because he was a human being.

  3. Good column, as ever, Vickers. I was a features/sports writer on The Northern Echo in 1986 and remember all too well how passionate Colin was about the Boro. Not many people know just how close we were to going to the wall and without Colin’s intervention we might not have survived.
    He was also a decent and honest man – he gave me some good stories on the grounds that I respected deadlines and timings etc and always stuck to his word. He should be remembered with all good thoughts by genuine Boro fans.
    It’s a sad day for the Teesside family.

  4. Colin Henderson – a real unsung hero if there was ever one. Did his job magnificently but was over-shadowed by the two promotions and the players of the first few years. And by Gibbo after that.
    He was like a good referee. Nobody remember one as the matches where so enjoyable to watch. No extra yellows or red and no bad decisions to argue about.
    The good chairmen go like that – no rows behind the stages. Everything handled 100 %. Highly respected but easily forgotten.
    So condolences to his family. Respect. Up the Boro!

  5. I remember Colin Henderson in his role as Boro Chairman well. Back in the immediate post ’86 period he was for me the ‘hero’ that saved the club.
    He’s a man who should be remembered and I trust the Boro/Steve Gibson will note his passing and acknowledge the role he played in Boro’s history. It’s a pity he didn’t write a memoir on his involvement with Boro, it would have been good to get a different perpective on the ’86 story.
    My condolences to his family and friends, 75 is no age these days.
    I read AV’s article more than once because having read it once I got the message about Colin Hendersons role immediatley, but I also got a sense of another message (between the lines). Which was a ‘compare and contrast’ message on the difference in style and personality between present chairman and Colin Henderson, am I right there AV or is my imagination running away with me?

  6. Nigel –
    Mfc.co.uk wrote: “Mr Henderson resigned on April 30 1993 following a disagreement among the board. He remained as a director until Steve Gibson took over as chairman the following season. After Boro, Mr Henderson went on to run a chain of petrol stations. He continued to live in Egglescliffe but no longer attended Boro games.”
    Surprising he stopped going to the matches, isn’t it? He was a Boro fan.
    So something went there but still Mr. Gibson praised his role on the site. Mr. Henderson was a great gentleman and hero. Perhaps unsung but hero anyway.
    Up the Boro!

  7. Thank you for the well deserved tribute. I had the pleasure of meeting Colin on a number of occasions. Modest and self-effacing, he was the antithesis of the normal corporate high-flier. As you say his great achievement was to forge the links between the club and ICI, which put the club back on a sound financial footing. A great man, and a great Boro supporter. Condolences to his family and many friends.

  8. Well said AV. We owe an awful lot to him. RIP.
    As I was four years old in 1986, my main memory of Colin Henderson is little less pivotal in the club’s history, but a nice story all the same…
    I met him as a young lad out for a family meal in Giovanni’s in Redcar. I asked him for his autograph, which he happily gave. However, he (perceptively) said that he thought I’d be far more interested in the players’ autographs, and said he’d send a signed poster to me and add me to the mascot list. The poster and mascot invite turned up a fortnight later. You wouldn’t get that from many chairmen.
    PS: My mascotry inspired Boro to a 2-1 victory at home to Plymouth Argyle in Lennie’s promotion season. Andy Payton missed a penalty before Willie Falconer saved me from the scorn of my classmates. Boro legend Dwight Marshall got Plymouth’s consolation. I also scored into the Holgate past Pearsy (who, it must be said, was doing his laces up at the time…).
    **AV writes: “…Boro legend Dwight Marshall…” I love the self deprecating, tongue in cheek, sarcastic one liners that Teessiders scatter in their wake.

  9. Good memories. I wrote a piece on my old website eons ago regarding the liquidation period, and Colin was certainly pivitol. Sadly missed, but a major part of Boro’s resurrection.Without his part in ’86, we may not even have a club now.

  10. Nigel –
    you maybe reading the subtext right,but the amount of money Steve Gibson has put into the club allows him any style of chairmanship he feels suits the club. No disrespect to the good name of Mr Henderson but he worked for a multinational company. Mr Gibson owns one.

  11. A true Teesside Hero,
    All Boro fans are thankfull for the fantastic job Colin did whilst at the Boro.
    A Gentleman supporter.
    ONE OF OUR OWN

  12. mickymac –
    I agree, Steve Gibson’s commitment and financial support for Boro give him a huge amount of credit. I find SG’s style fascinating rather than frustrating (on the whole). I get the impression that back in the late eighties SG felt his fellow directors/shareholders were not ambitious enough. Perhaps the idea of developing Boro into a ‘community club’ (I’m not sure what a community club is) and redeveloping Ayersome left him cold. He aimed for the stars and I’m for one am glad he did.

  13. Saviour is not too big a word for his efforts and determination back in 86 without which we wouldn’t be writing and reading on all things Boro today. Ollie B’s memories are a fitting and genuine epitaph which says far more than any carefully worded script ever could.
    I hope the club suitably honour his memory in the new season to enable the fans to show their appreciation.
    RIP

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