Supporters of Dundee Football Club used to have a fanzine called Eh Mind o’ Gillie, a translation of which would be: I remember Alan Gilzean. It was a perfect title because Dundee had had better days and every dad who alluded to them would invoke the name of the rapier to whom all Scotland and, for much of a remarkable campaign, Europe succumbed.
To embody nostalgia and paint it dark blue — as half the city by the Tay would do — would be to see once more the elegant assassin who forsook us for Tottenham.
Of course, I mind o’ Gillie. He remains my hero. But Spurs remember him, too, and tonight the great man, so self-effacing as to make Paul Scholes seem a raving exhibitionist — so averse to fuss that for years he was incorrectly assumed to have become a recluse — will be inducted into their Hall of Fame along with Mike England, arguably the club’s greatest central defender of all time.
Jimmy Greaves once described Gilzean as the best fellow forward he’d played with. But that was the Scot in his second incarnation. At Dundee he had been a goalscorer, with 169 in 190 League appearances. These included four at Rangers during the march to the club’s only Scottish title, in 1961-2. But Gilzean became even more prolific the next season, notably in the competition now known as the Champions League.
The first round brought Cologne to Dens Park, where Gilzean led an 8-1 slaughter. He got a hat-trick that night, and another against Sporting Lisbon. He struck twice in a 4-1 win at Anderlecht and got the winner in the home leg of the semi-final against Milan. Had we overcome the Italian champions on aggregate, we’d have become the first British club in a European Cup final. Unfortunately, a 5-1 defeat at San Siro had precluded it.
Gilzean changed his game at Spurs. He became a foil for, among others, Greaves and Martin Chivers, still getting goals — 93 in 343 — but setting up more. He was a better passer with his head than many a striker can manage with his feet — and his feet were balletic.
We’ll discover tonight how White Hart Lane enjoyed his time — an FA Cup, a UEFA Cup and two League Cups were collected — but there will be no more grateful table in the room than the one from Dens. Eternally, we’ll mind o’ Gillie.
Source: Dundee Mad