FALKIRK’S new chairman Dougie Henderson was an MP in the Newcastle area for almost 23 years – while living in Fife.
During his public service, which ended when he stepped down in 2010, the 65-year-old would have had many a long car journey, but few as long as the abortive one he endured when heading to Dumfries for his club’s Scottish Cup quarter-final in March.
“I drove my car into one of these stops on the M74 and couldn’t get it started again. So I missed the game,” said Henderson yesterday, speaking at his club’s Scottish Cup final media day. “It was 11 o’clock at night until I could get the thing moving. I ended up getting a taxi back from Motherwell. I had recorded the match and watched it when I got home, but I couldn’t listen to it live on the radio because there were no electrics in the car.”
The necessary electrics worked when it mattered most to the lifelong Falkirk fan, though. “My highlight of following the club is being old enough to have watched our 1957 Scottish Cup final win on the telly,” said the current chairman, who will be deferring to the man he replaced two months ago, Martin Ritchie, at Hampden on Saturday after the pair came to an “arrangement” because Ritchie was chairman for all but the semi-final.
“Remembering that 1957 win, when I’m talking to Arsenal and Chelsea supporters, I can say, ‘We’ve won the cup as well, you know’. There have been some great moments. I was a great lover of Alex Parker from my childhood. I was with Dougie Moran the other day who is a lovely man. These are very nice memories.
“You remember the games…Hugh Maxwell scoring six or seven against Clyde when I was a young teenager…Kevin McAllister scoring from the halfway line against St Johnstone…chanting for Simon Stainrod, then 34, to get an England call after Airdrie fans were calling him an “English b******”…and when we beat Coventry City in the Texaco Cup at Brockville in midweek with about 14,000 there.
“And the last two cup finals. I had just become a Government minister in 1997 when we got to the Kilmarnock cup final and that was disappointing that day, I thought we were robbed. It was a great day out, though, I had brought a lot of my pals to that. In 2009, I thought we outplayed Rangers for most of the game and it was very unfortunate that we didn’t take it to at least extra- time. I hope things are going to be different on Saturday.”
Henderson certainly wants the Falkirk stadium and Scottish football to be different. He said: “We can’t leave that open space there [where the fourth stand should be]. We’ve got to develop that and we’re looking at ways of doing that. ”
Henderson also wants a 16-team top league. He contends there are about ten clubs of a similar stature – below Celtic, Rangers, Hearts, Hibernian, Aberdeen and Dundee United – and that it is about separating “the economics from the vested interests.”
He said: “Broadly speaking, there are about ten clubs working with the same economics and have the same challenges and problems. We see ourselves as one of these clubs, and we have got to do our best within that grouping in whatever league structure exists at any particular time.”
Henderson also realises Falkirk’s reach has to be beyond the football environs to fulfil their mission to be a community club. “Clubs that think they can only take from the community will fail,” he said. “You have to contribute to the community. For instance, we support the local hospice at Strathcarron. When you talk to fans about that, and the families of fans, they say it’s good the club is doing that.”