Tributes to Poppies legend

Bert Henley, former Kettering, Rothwell, Rushden and Wellingborough footballer
Bert Henley, former Kettering, Rothwell, Rushden and Wellingborough footballer

Tributes have been paid to a man described as among the most prolific players in local football history.

Bert Henley, one of the Poppies’ biggest post-war stars, died on Monday at his home in Rothwell. He was 89.

He was born in Kettering in February 1923, and attended St Andrew’s and Stamford Road schools.

He then worked for the Co-op in Kettering, playing for their team too. “Everywhere he went, he played football,” said his son, Peter Henley. “All the local teams wanted him.”

He went on to play for a number of local teams, including Rushden, Rothwell and Wellingborough, but had already made a name for himself at Kettering Town.

Henley signed for the Poppies in 1946 after serving in the Navy during the Second World War.

He made an immediate impact at Rockingham Road by scoring a hat-trick on his debut and went on to score 109 goals in 98 appearances for the club until he left in 1952.

Ian Addis, who has written about the history of football in Northamptonshire, said Henley was a significant figure at the club.

He added: “He was a local footballing personality, a prolific goalscorer.

“I always think of him and Arnold Woolhead in tandem. They were strike partners and leading post-war players.”

In a statement, his family said: “Bert was a devoted husband to his late wife Eileen, a loving father and a proud grandfather and great-grandfather. He was an honest, hard-working and generous man who always had time for his family.

“Bert was very well-known in Rothwell. He was a stickler for time and had a daily routine which never varied. People said you could set your watch by him.

“He was a true gentleman and will be greatly missed.”

His funeral is at Kettering’s crematorium at 1.30pm on Monday, February 11. It would have been his 90th birthday.