Doug Henderson has set his sights on returning Falkirk to their “rightful place” in the Premiership and completing their stadium after being appointed as the club’s new chairman.
Henderson, a former Labour government minister, has been elected by the Bairns board as successor to Martin Ritchie, who is to step down following a period of transition after five years in the post.
Henderson, who was MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne North from 1987 until he stepped down in 2010, joined the club’s board in December 2013 but is a lifelong fan and yesterday claimed Falkirk is “in the blood”.
The 65-year-old praised the work carried out by Ritchie and his fellow directors in turning around the club’s parlous financial outlook and believes the current off-field stability can provide the bedrock for a return to the upper echelons of Scottish football.
Peter Houston’s side are firmly in the frame for a play-off spot but Henderson is optimistic that if promotion is not secured this season it will not be far off. And, with the club’s Westfield base still without a stand on its fourth side, the one-time UK Minister of State for Europe and Minister for the Armed Forces during Tony Blair’s administration insists he hopes to also oversee the completion of the community stadium during his tenure.
He said: “I see now the core of a stronger side, the club is in a much stronger position and we’re hopefully on the up-swing, both in terms of the non-football management of the club and on the pitch. We’ve got the finances in order, we’ve got an excellent stadium – although we’ve got a bit to complete yet – and the team is strengthening.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to achieve our ambition of being back in the Premiership and to stay there. We’ll be doing everything we can to take the club back to its rightful place.
“The number one priority is to take us into the Premiership and a very strong second is to make sure the stadium is completed and is viable in the long-term. If we manage to achieve that we’ll bind ourselves with our supporters because that’s what our supporters want. On the board, we’re all supporters and we think exactly the same as everyone else. So, we know that football supporters want to see success.
“Not every club can be successful all the time but we feel we’re now at a period in our history where we can move forward. That’s built on the stabilisation that’s been brought about by Martin Ritchie and others over the past five or six years, where we’ve now got the club in a reasonably good financial position, and we’ve got to keep it there.”
Born in Edinburgh and schooled in Fife, Henderson fell in love with Falkirk through family members who lived in the town and thanks to the club’s 1957 Scottish Cup final triumph over Kilmarnock. He has remained a fan ever since, clocking up thousands of miles to watch the Bairns whilst his work and political life have made it a challenge to take in games. And, recalling the early 1970s era and that of Jim Jefferies in the 1990s with particular fondness, he is hopeful his previous position in the rank and file of the club’s support can help him share their aims and concerns.
He added: “It’s a great privilege and a thrill as well to be named chairman-elect. I’ve been a Falkirk supporter since I was a wee boy, inspired by some of my relatives who lived in Falkirk and also by the 1957 cup final. I’ve been a supporter since. Wherever I’ve worked or lived I’ve been a supporter and I always came back for as many games as possible. So, it’s in the blood. I think the role of chairman is to show some leadership in the club but to make sure that leadership isn’t out of touch with what other board members are thinking and, most importantly, what the supporters are thinking.”