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Willie Henderson article - found from my e-mail vault - for the RM e-zine


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Willie Henderson article

I dare say that a 20 year old writing about a star of the 60s and 70s may seem strange but nostalgia can be written by the young too and I am certainly proud of our Footballing past and one in particular who I will talk about here is, Willie Henderson.

Admittedly, I can't refer to my favourite games of Willie's of when I was there sitting in the stand but after seeing television footage and doing research I hope I can do the subject justice.

William Henderson was born in Bailleston, Glasgow in 1944. Throughout his youth, he was brought up in Airdrie and played regularly for the Schools team, something that was much more presigtious back then. Henderson joined Rangers in 1961 after much interest in him from English club including Manchester United and made his debut at 17 for Rangers.

Before his debut, Willie sweeped the terraces as part of being an apprentice and was put on loan. He was sent out to Edinburgh Athletic, an amateur side, to probably 'toughen him up'.

To his breakthrough later, what type of player was Willie Henderson?

Well, his nickname was 'Wee Willie' and for me that says something already. Willie was 5'4 and traditionally in Glasgow one is referred to as 'Wee' and isn't meant as patronising as it acnowledges their size and their positive personality and this defenitely relates to Willie.

Willie was a very traditonal winger, no bad thing when he was that good. He had pace but he wasn't just about pace but he had tremoundous ball-control and trickery combined with bundles of self confidence. The Scottish word 'Gallous' is one that describes Willie well, it meaning, confident, cheeky'.

His centre of gravity was ever so low which made him very diffucult to knock off the ball. and His short stocky legs were legs were like tree trunks. His technique was terrific with it sticking to his boot like a magnet, making it a nightmare for defenders when they tried to tackle.

However just because, he was skilful and fast one shouldn't assume, that was all he had as he still had a excellent delivery that went right to the feet of Jimmy Milar, Ralph Brand, Jim Forrest or Colin Stein

Bravery, bravery has always been a common trait, or at least it used to be, and it certainly was right in regards to Willie as in those days a solid tackle from a hard-nosed full-back was accepted as the norm. Willie however is not like some modern wingers where they may 'play' for the foul while on the run or claim for the foul as the wee man just got up and up again and start again like a hurdler that was a beginner, he had that determination.

On his breakthrough though, (he signed in 1961), but he only made 3 appearances that season but had still done enough to prove that he should replace the more the more experienced but also impressive winger in Alex Scott the next season and Scott moved to win more honours at Everton.

The next season, he played his first Cup Final at 18 years old, against St Mirren in the 1962. That Season, he played in his first Old Firm game. Being 18, he didn't take much advice at the time. But after a misplaced pass that Willie had, a certain Bobby Shearer said (The Captain of the time and a Mr Rangers) 'Don't dae that again, Son'.

In the next season, the 1963-1964 became one if the most famous seasons in Rangers' history and arguably Willie's best. That Rangers team won every Old Firm game during that season. The famous team then was, Richie, Shearer, Caldow, Rae, McKinlay, Baxter, Henderson, McMillan, Millar, Brand and Wilson.

In the 1963 League Cup Final, Willie was a stand-out by creating 4 goals for Jim Forrest. The next Cup Competition, in the 1/4 final of the Scottish Cup Final, was what has Henderson seeing to be his greatest goal.

It was against Celtic, this quarter final. Willie started off his run around the half-way line, went past 3 players and unleashed a shot from the edge of the box that went flying into the net. The story goes that John Clark swore at him and then Willie just replied 'But your out the Scottish Cup, Son'

Rangers reached the Scottish Cup Final that season but its a very poignant memory for William. Before the game, it was known to the winger that his Father was dying in an Edinburgh hospital. Willie still played but at the 86th minute, it was 1-1. Willie tells the story that he turned round to one of the ambulance attendants at the side of the pitch and asked him how long was left and he was told that it was 4 minutes. Willie then said to the helpful man at the side of the pitch 'Better do some work'. Willie then went onto create a goal and also score the winner to win te match 3-1.

At this point, after touching on his Father I think I'll take a little bit of time out at this point to talk about Willie and his Father. After that Final, his Father actually survived this scare although paralysed but Willie enjoyed many years with his Father. The Town that Willie was brought up in was Caldercrooks, in Ayrshire. It was a happy childhood for him but in Caldercrooks, it was either you went down the mines or became a footballer. Luckily for Willie, his Father seen a talent for Football in his son at an early age and was perhaps 'ahead of his time' as he - at an early age - would tell a young Willie to spend a few hours a night with a slipper on his right foot and a football boot on his left boot. Willie would then go on to play both right and outside left in his career.

Domestically, Celtic began to take control post mid sixties but Willie was still very involved and was part of a Scottish Cup and League Cup win and was a runners up on several occasions.

Rangers in Europe with Willie is something to be admired but there also comes one of Willie's biggest regrets. That era gave football some of its most famous names. Indeed, our as a club and Willie' s achievements may have been overlooked. With Willie, Rangers reached 2 European finals, one in 1967 and one in 1972 and the semi final of the fairs cup. It is probably too late to class the 1961 final as on whih Willie was involved in.

What Willie considers to be his best game was, in europe, against what he considers to be the best club side of the time in Real Madrid and it was rumoured at the time that Madrid would look at him post match but Rangers dismissed any chance of signing of him.

Sadly, some of his biggest regrets were to come through european competition. The first was in 1967, days after Celtic's triumph, where we lost to Bayern. Willie actually describes this as the greatest dissapointment of his life but blames the defeat in the final on the manager than the players. The Manager of the time, Scot Symon decided to play many players out of position and this perhaps led to the downfall of Rangers that night.

Secondly, our glory of 72 is something that still hurts Willie's insides. In the Semi-Final of that run, Willie had scored in both legs. However, from the time between the 2nd leg and the Final, the Manager Willie Waddell had told him that he could have a free transfer after not seeing eye to eye for some time and when we were in Barcelona, Willie was sadly sunning himself in South Africa. He has said that it was a very dissapointing way to end his Rangers Career and obviously missing out to be a part of that famous night was terrible for Henderson. Both are times he finds diffucult to talk about.

Internationally, Willlie was and remains the youngest player to ever represent Scotland at 18 years and 269 days and said 'I'm very proud to be the youngest player to have ever played for Scotland, from the Glasgow Rangers'. Of the time, 'Wee Willie and Jimmy 'Jinky' Johnstone where the 2 friendly adversaries for the right wing for the National Team however Willie did gain more Scotland Caps than Jinky. However after talking to respected elder adult friends, I have been told and am led to believe that the reason that Willie had 29 caps and Jinky 27 caps respectively I am now of the belief that while Jimmy was also an excellent winger, Willie was more direct and a team player while Jinky was too much of an entertainer.

After leaving Rangers, Willie played for Sheffield Wednesday for two seasons before moving to Hong Kong and to play for Hong Kong Rangers - where he met up with former teammates Alex Willoughby and Jim Forrest - a for 3 seasons before moving back to Scotland and playng for Airdrie for one last season.

In Willie's career, there were many admirers and during it, he was invited to the Stanley Matthews Testimonial where many world class players were invited.

The accolades do not end there though.

Denis Law said ''He came up the best in the world, and defeated them with skill, ability and class. That's why he was a great player.''

George Best: ''My Dad's a great judge and he said Willie was one of the greats. If he said it, you believed it. I know Willie really was a genius.''

The Benfica Chairman after a friendly: '' Henderson is an outstanding player who upholded Scotland's prestige''

Willie Henderson was undoubtedly one of the best wingers in the history of Rangers Football Club - he said that the ultimate highlight in his career was being entered into the Rangers Hall of Fame - and will always be remembered as the archtypical Rangers winger.

Willie's stats: (For Rangers)

Played 426 games

Scored 62 goals

2 League Cup Medals

4 Scottish Cup Medals/ 2Runners Cup Medals

2 League Championships

29 Caps for Scotland

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Caldercruix nr Airdrie not Caldercrooks, Ayrshire,

Rae and McKinlay should be Greig and McKinnon.

Good article on a great Rangers player though.

That threw me, so it did, I was thinking, fuck this memory of mine at times, and was also toying with, Davis and McKinley, or Greig and McInnes, before ending up with Mills and Boon and Baxter and Wee Wullie Winky on the wing. For by all that. it was a great wee write up about one of the best Rangers and Scotland wingers ever to play the game........ of .....Badminton...... I'm right ...Eh! ? :7325: Fucken ..............Eyesight ?

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The Manager of the time, Scot Symon decided to play many players out of position and this perhaps led to the downfall of Rangers that night.

Seems the more things change the more they stay the same. Not knocking Mr Symon who was a great servant to the club, a great player (by all accounts) and a fantastic manager. I remember meeting him when I was a wee boy in the 60's - he was a lovely man, a real gentleman.

Roger Hynd leading the line what a screw-up that was.

Wee Wullie -- great winger and the heart of a lion --- but while we're on similes he was also as blind as a bat......... still one of my favourite players.

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The Manager of the time, Scot Symon decided to play many players out of position and this perhaps led to the downfall of Rangers that night.

Seems the more things change the more they stay the same. Not knocking Mr Symon who was a great servant to the club, a great player (by all accounts) and a fantastic manager. I remember meeting him when I was a wee boy in the 60's - he was a lovely man, a real gentleman.

Roger Hynd leading the line what a screw-up that was.

Wee Wullie -- great winger and the heart of a lion --- but while we're on similes he was also as blind as a bat......... still one of my favourite players.

There is the one story about him scoring against the tims and being so bling he could not see which end he was gesticulating towards, raising his arms to the Celtc end rather than the Rangers one. He is a delight and is good company.

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