Jackie Henderson: the Arsenal man who moved to my village

Jackie Henderson – the key dates

  • 17 January 1932: Jackie Henderson born
  • 6 May 1953: Jackie Henderson’s first international cap
  • 3 October 1958: Jackie Henderson signed from Wolverhampton for £17,500
  • 4 October 1958: One day after signing Jackie Henderson makes his Arsenal debut v WBA where he scored twice as Arsenal beat WBA 4–3 at Highbury.
  • 5 November 1958: Last international for Jackie Henderson.
  • 18 November 1961: Last Arsenal league game for Jackie Henderson v Nottingham F
  • 26 January 2005: Jackie Henderson died.


John Gillespie Henderson known universally as Jackie was born 17 January 1932 in Glasgow.  He started playing football with a church team in Bishopbriggs and then moved to Kirkintilloch Boys Club,

He signed for Portsmouth aged 17 in 1947 – one report says that he was spotted playing for Kirkintilloch by a Portsmouth scout, but that seems a little far fetched to me for 1947.  I suspect (and I have no evidence for this) his family had moved to the south coast, possibly in relation to the war effort.

Certainly at the time Portsmouth were an up and coming club in the first division (they won the league in 1949 and 1950) and the city had grown dramatically during the war years around the naval base.

Jackie signed as an amateur at Fratton Park, undertook his National Service and then signed professional in January 1949, making his debut in January 1951, becoming a regular in the team the following season.

Henderson made his debut for Scotland in a friendly against Sweden on 6 May 1953 – the first of seven caps, and he was a member of the 1954 Scotland world cup squad.  Perversely Scotland only took 13 of the players to the finals!

Jackie scored for Scotland on 3 October 1953 in a win against Northern Ireland, His final cap for Scotland was against against Northern Ireland on 5 November 1958, which Scotland drew 2–2.

Just before his last international appearance he moved in March 1958 to Wolverhampton Wanderers who went on to win the league that season but Jackie made only nine appearances – not what had been expected after his success at Portsmouth.

When his second season continued as the first he moved to Arsenal in October 1958 for £30,000.  His first game was on 4 October 1958 where he scored twice as Arsenal beat WBA 4–3 win at Highbury.

He started playing at outside left, but also put in some appearances at centre forward in his first season, and although missing two spells through injury played 21 and scored 12 goals.  In his second season he played in every position across the forward line.

Everything Henderson did was carried out at high velocity, running was hard and direct, playing as a two footed centre forward or winger.  The crowd loved him.   Here’s his Arsenal record…

Season Lge Games Goals
1958/9 21 12
1959/60 31 7
1960/61 39 10
1961/62 12 0
Total 103 29

It was unfortunate for Jackie that he appeared at a time when Arsenal were in considerable internal turmoil and midway through the 1961-62 season he was transferred to Fulham for £15,000.   He had played 111 games for Arsenal in total, scoring 29 goals.

With Fulham he reached the FA Cup semi final, but they struggled throughout this time against relegation.

Sadly, aged 31, in March 1963 he broke his leg and was unable to make a successful comeback in league football thereafter.  He moved to Dorset, and truly amazingly settled down in Broadstone, then a village just outside Poole (now a suburb of Poole), where my parents and I lived.  We’d moved out of north London in 1958, and now suddenly I had an Arsenal player living in my town playing for my local non-league club!

Poole Town were on the up at the time, having just had their all time record attendance of 6575 for a 1st round FA cup replay against Watford in January 1963.   Jackie was the top scorer in Poole’s 1964/65 campaign when Poole came third in the Southern League First Division and gained promotion along with Hereford Utd and Wimbledon (both of whom eventually made the football league – sadly Poole didn’t).

In 1967 he played for Dorchester in the Western League (where Don Roper had played just a few years before – I think the two got to know each other), and truly amazingly settled down in Broadstone.

He continued playing with Dorchester until 1971 when he was 40, and stayed in Dorset continuing to work for a builders’ merchant.

Jackie was married with two sons, and died in Broadstone, Poole on January 26 2005 at the age of 73.

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3 Replies to “Jackie Henderson: the Arsenal man who moved to my village”

  1. I started supporting Arsenal as a 7yr old in 57. The WBA game may have been the 1st game I went to. Like all kids them days I collected cigarette cards of footballers, my favourite was of Jackie in typical volleying position,I used to try this all the time when I played at Highbury

  2. I remember that match, it was played on my 8th birthday, I stood in the well next to the players tunnel, I thought he was a real gifted footballer, that season we finished in 3rd position, the highest we achieved for the next 12 years,

  3. I lived in Portsmouth from 1946 until 1968. I followed Pompey then and still do. In 1957 or 1958 I used to visit a friend in Clarence Road, Portsmouth who lived next door to Jackie Hendersons’ girlfriend. On several occasions he would join us in a kick about in the street! How many Premiership or international players do that today? He was a lovely man. I don’t know if his girlfriend became his wife. Coincidentally I now live in Poole.

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