Dundee entertain St Mirren in the Scottish Cup 4th round this weekend so we take a look at a player who played for both clubs, Albert Henderson.
Henderson was signed at Dens Park from juvenile club Aberdeen Lads Club on November 24th 1951 and within a year, the twenty-year-old was one of Dundee’s Hampden Heroes when he played in the 1952 Scottish League Cup Final win over Kilmarnock.
One of a number of Aberdonians signed by manager George Anderson from his home town, Albert Henderson was a 5ft 10in inside-forward and his signature was won from under the noses of a number of English clubs who were chasing his services. During his National Service with the Army he won five medals and played in many representative matches and his signing was seen as something of a coup by the Dens Park side.
Bert didn’t have wait very long for his first team debut as less than a month after joining he played against Stirling Albion at Dens on December 22nd and he was an instant hero by scoring in the 4-1 win. Three days later he retained his place against Partick Thistle at Firhill on Christmas Day and gave the Dark Blues fans the perfect gift with another goal in a 3-1 victory.
By the end of his first professional season, Henderson had made eleven appearances, scoring eight times and, as well as making full use of his height in a short forward line, his bursts of speed and fine positional play were an asset to the side. He didn’t play in the Scottish Cup Final against Motherwell in April, with the experienced Johnny Pattillo being preferred at inside-right, but in truth Albert hadn’t been expecting to play as he hadn’t featured in the previous four games.
He did however come in for the last game of the season against Third Lanark at Dens the following week and signed off a promising debut season with a brace in a 6-0 win.
Bert had also played his part in the Dundee ‘A’ side winning the Scottish League ‘C’ Division 1951/52 title with eighteen appearances and the start of the following season saw Bert begin in the reserves. However, after a number of impressive performances, he was called into the first team in time for the League Cup quarter-final against Stirling Albion and played in both legs.
He was trading places with Tommy Gallacher over the next few weeks after Tommy had been moved up to inside-right at the start of the season but it was Henderson who was given the number eight jersey in the 2-1 League Cup semi-final win over Hibs and their ‘Famous Five’ forward line at Tynecastle.
In the two ‘A’ Division games between the semi and final, Henderson was on the scoresheet and so, on October 25th 1952, Bert was chosen ahead of Gallacher for the League Cup Final against Kilmarnock at Hampden.
The twenty-one-year-old however was a bag of nerves and put in a shaky performance and with the game still goalless with ten minutes to go, Jimmy Toner suggested that they should swap places and that Bert should go out on to the wing. It was a move that worked instantly as, just a few minutes later, Toner played Bobby Flavell through from the inside-right position and the centre fired low into the net to give Dundee the lead.
Henderson looked better on the touchline and made a couple of penetrating runs late on and when Bobby Flavell got his second with just three minutes left, Albert’s winner’s medal was assured.
Henderson played twenty-six times, scoring six goals that year and at the end of the season was chosen for Dundee’s sixteen-man squad to travel to South Africa for a two-month, seventeen-game tour. He spent a couple of days in bed in his hotel room with a stomach complaint which caused him to miss one of the games but he came back from the Dominion having scored four times in ten appearances.
Henderson also scored a brace against South Africa when they visited Dens in October 1953 and that season saw him score a total of nine goals in competitive games including the winner against Rangers at Dens in a 1-0 win.
In season 1954/55 Bert recorded his best tallies for Dundee in both goals and appearances when he scored ten times in thirty-seven appearances, the second best turn out of the squad.
In February 1956, Henderson scored in another notable game when he netted against Dundee United in a Scottish Cup fifth round tie. The sides hadn’t met for five years and so there was great local interest in the match and, after a 2-2 draw at Tannadice, Dundee knocked the ‘B’ Division side out with a 3-0 win at Dens, with Henderson scoring the third.
In December 1957, Henderson submitted a transfer request after a delay in receiving a £1,000 benefit and Dundee manager Willie Thornton then dropped him for the next game against Falkirk. Dundee claimed that they had asked the Scottish League’s permission and it was their delay in responding that was the problem and that Henderson therefore had no right to put in a transfer request. He subsequently withdrew it and went on to play for the Dark Blues for another three years.
In January 1961, St. Mirren sold Johnny Frye to Sheffield Wednesday for £3,500 and the Paisley side immediately spent £2,500 of the cash on buying Albert Henderson from Dundee on January 13th. Dundee manager Bob Shankly then used that money to sign Bobby Wishart from Aberdeen for £3,500 and Wishart would go on to score two goals on his debut against Dundee United the following week and would be a key member of Dundee’s league championship winning team eighteen months later.
Henderson left Dundee aged thirty after nine years at Dens and was the club’s second longest serving player behind Doug Cowie. He played 271 times for the Dark Blues, scoring over fifty goals, including a hat-trick against Arbroath in the Forfarshire Cup shortly before he left, a club he would soon be managing.
Within a year at Love Street, a knee injury prematurely ended Bert’s playing career and at the age of thirty-one he was invited to become manager of Arbroath. He would be in charge at Gayfield for the next eighteen years, becoming the longest serving manager in Scotland at that time and he oversaw arguably the best period of the Red Lichties’ history.
In the thirteen years up to the creation of the Premier League in 1975, Arbroath were promoted twice and spent a total of four seasons in Scotland’s top division. Even away from the top flight, the Lichties under Henderson were always challenging for promotion, were third on three occasions and never finished lower than seventh in the old Second Division. His eye for quality also led to Gayfield being graced by players like Gordon Marshall, Andy Penman, Hugh Robertson, Ernie Winchester, Cammy Murray and Jimmy Bone who, although all nearing the end of their playing careers, still had the qualities Bert recognised as being vital in a balanced team. Others who starred in his sides included Billy Pirie, Tommy Walker and John Fletcher—the last-named having scored a late winning goal when Arbroath beat Rangers 3-2 at Ibrox in 1974. Heady days at Gayfield indeed!
Henderson, who used to collect gramophone records along with George Christie and was a great table tennis player, had been a valuable player for The Dee and always in the work-house of the team. Bobby Cox described him as, “A hard player and a real team man – a great servant to the club.” and a compliment from man who embodies everything great about the Dark Blues is all you need to know about the youngest of Dundee’s Hampden Heroes.
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish League Cup winners: 1952/53
League: 217, 47 goals
Scottish Cup: 10, 1 goal
League Cup: 44, 2 goals
Totals: 271, 50 goals