J G "JACKIE" HENDERSON was capped for Scotland seven times while an Arsenal and Portsmouth player, despite an unorthodox background in the game.

Henderson had not played football at all at school and was well into his teens before signing for Portsmouth.

In 1949, Portsmouth were prime movers in the first division. Although the town's naval base was contracting, following a return to peace-time conditions, the football club was flourishing as never before.

Pompey won the championship twice in a row, in 1949 and 1950, and young Henderson was entitled to be proud when he was taken onto the Portsmouth books.

Henderson's apprenticeship was slow but invaluable.

Portsmouth operated on a rock-solid defence, the wing halves, Scoular and Dickinson, being particularly noteworthy.

It was Henderson's misfortune, though largely unnoticed at the time, that he joined clubs that had already just crested.

He was not lucky with his selectors, either. Although capped only seven times, he was asked to try out in three different positions and did well to cope with the major changes necessary to do justice to them all.

It was the last, dying throes of the amateur selectors on the Scottish Football Association.

Henderson was picked to play against Sweden in 1953 and, although Scotland lost narrowly, Henderson, by general consent, had done enough for a first run-out.

This feeling was reinforced by his scoring a goal in his next international, against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, in a match Scotland won 3-1.

The selectors' action on receiving this news was to drop the entire Scottish forward line for a match against Wales.

The Scots managed a 3-3 draw.

The following match was the big one, against England at Hampden. England always won there and they did so again, this time 4-2.

Henderson had tried valiantly at centre-forward but not made much impression.

He was dropped for the European Nations Cup match against Norway at Hampden, but restored to the team for the following game against the same opposition. By that time, he could be pardoned for being less than confident.

If the selectors nursed the occasional doubt about their player, clubs did not. For most of Henderson's career, he maintained his market value.

After 10 years at Fratton Park, he left Portsmouth forWolverhampton Wanderers for a fee of pounds-16,000. This move seems not to have worked out, for he moved again three months later, to Arsenal although the fee had increased this time to pounds-18,000. Given that Fulham was Henderson's last league stop after four years at Highbury, the bright lights possibly prevailed. He spent his last footballing days in non-league football, with Poole Town.

Henderson, at 5ft 9ins, was tall for his generation and pleasingly direct.

He had plenty of opposition for the international side.

Tommy Ring and Willie Ormond had eyes on the leftwinger's job, St John fancied the centre-forward spot and Graham Leggatt was a challenger for the right-wing post.

He was a regular, but not particularly prolific, goal scorer. His tally of 109 goals in 371 matches, would be satisfactory enough so long as we were talking wingers. It was scarcely sufficient for a centre-forward.

The impression is strong that, had Henderson been lucky enough to be in the charge of Matt Busby, Jock Stein or, for that matter, Willie Ormond, he would have been that much more successful. The basic ability was certainly there.

John Gillespie Henderson, footballer; born January 17,1932, died January 26, 2005.