RIP Ray Henderson

Ray Henderson, Southport’s Manager during the greater part of their penultimate season in the Football League , died on 18th January in a Wetherby Care Home. He was 86.

Born in Wallsend on 31st March, 1937, Ray trained as a mechanical engineer while playing part-time football with Ashington in the Northeastern League. He was spotted by Middlesbrough from where he was transferred to Hull City in June 1961. There he made 226 (plus 3 substitute) League appearances in over seven years. Ray was a member of their promotion winning team in 1965-66 and starred on the right wing in the “Tigers’”  fifth round FA Cup tie against Southport.

Ray gained his coaching badges and was absorbed onto the Hully City coaching staff. In 1968 Ray was appointed Player Coach at Reading where he also served as Caretaker Manager. There followed spells as Manager of Halifax Town and he also scouted for Oxford United before he joined Everton’s coaching staff in June 1973. The following year, after an Everton tour to Malaysia and Singapore, he was offered – but turned down – the job of Malaysian national coach preferring to remain at Goodison Park where he was appointed Reserve team coach.

Following Alan Brown’s departure to Blackpool in May 1976 Southport tried to entice ex Burnley boss Jimmy Adamson to take over as Manager but he accepted a position with Sparta, Rotterdam.  Ray who had been strongly recommended by Everton Manager, Billy Bingham, was offered the job. Everton agreed to release him despite him having a further fourteen months to run on his contract. Ray brought with him a new coach in Gus McLean and intended to build his side around Tony Rhodes who was signed from Halifax and made Club captain. Unfortunately, Rhodes was out with first an ankle and then a hamstring injury. An attempt to sign former Leeds United striker, Rod Belfitt foundered on the problem of travelling from Doncaster.

It was apparent from the outset that little had been done to improve an already under-strength squad. The one bright spot was when Second Division Carlile United were taken to a third meeting at Brunton Park, in which Southport briefly led 2-1, though the home team won through to a lucrative tie with Arsenal. Southport hovered around the relegation zone throughout the season with only one League win and a preponderance of draws in 31 games. Gates dropped to under the thousand mark, and it was hardly surprising when Henderson was replaced by Hugh Fisher after just ten months in charge. Ray continued for a short time as Executive Manager with aim of raising much needed cash, but he left the club in the Summer of 1977 and perhaps chastened by his Haig Avenue experience had no further involvement in football. Ray was one of Southport’s most personable Managers who had an incredible  ability to remember the names of supporters.  Certainty other than Liam Watson, he was the only Manager to call me by my first name!

In later life Ray worked in Leeds in the printing industry and lived in Boston Spa. He had been in poor health for some time prior to his death. We extend our sincere condolences to Ray’s family.

Michael Braham