Sixty years ago today Dundee beat Kilmarnock in the Scottish League Cup Final and in the process became the first club to successfully defend the trophy. Kenny Ross tells the story of the famous day in the clubs history.
After defeating Rangers 3-2 in the 1951 final, Dundee completed the ‘Road to Hampden’ again twelve months later and would lift the League Cup for a second time with a 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock.
Dundee reached the final after a superb 2-1 semi-final victory over reigning league champions Hibernian at Tynecastle and were now overwhelming favourites to retain the League Cup against the Ayrshire part-timers who were currently rooted to the bottom of the ‘B’ Division.
The stand tickets went on sale at Dens on Thursday 16thOctober at 6pm and Dundee’s 5000 allocation were to be restricted to two per person. Prices were 21s, 10s 6d, 7s 6d and 5s and entry to the north and south enclosures and the ground would be by cash. In just one day 16,000 stand tickets were sold between the clubs and the Scottish League, who now predicted that the crowd would be between 50 and 70,000. Dundee’s continued to sell their stand tickets on Friday morning and The Courier were predicting 15,000 Dundonians would make the trip.
Bookings of buses in Dundee were heavy and nine special trains were being laid on from Juteopolis by British Rail.
The week before the final Dundee faced Hearts in the league at Dens and Tynecastle director Frank McKenzie brought a gift for George Anderson who was unable to receive it in person as he was recovering in a nursing homefrom pleurisy. The gift was a wooden plague to hold his League Cup and ‘B’ Division winning medals and there was a special placed left for another winner’s medal should Dundee beat Kilmarnock in seven days time.
George Anderson wasn’t the only member of the Dundee party to receive a gift as a fan anonymously left a sprig of white heather for captain Alfie Boyd at the main door at Dens. He had received an identical gift before the final twelve months previously and had worn it in his shorts when he scored the winning goal but as he didn’t receive one before the Scottish Cup Final in April, which Dundee lost to Motherwell, he fully intended to wear it against Kilmarnock. Boyd would also have a rabbit’s foot and a small piece of coal in his pocket and he hoped these traditional lucky charms would help him lift the cup aloft for a second time. .
The Hearts game was a good test in the build up to the final with a 2-1 win thanks to goals from Doug Cowie andAlbert Henderson. However just before the end Jack Cowan got a serious leg knock and although he finished thegame, his leg was very painful. He was hopeful of playing at Hampden but in the end the injury forced him to miss the big day and be replaced by South African Gordon Frew who had been dropped in favour of Cowan in the Rangers final twelve months before.
There was one positional change for the Final with a switch between Boyd and Cowie but for their old half back partner Gallacher, there was desperate disappointment. He had been in and out of the side since the start of the season and had played a number of games at inside-right instead of his more familiar right-half and was chosen to turn out for the reserves at Dens against Aberdeen on Saturday afternoon.
Gallacher had an ongoing dispute with George Andersonwhich had perhaps cost him a place in the side and having played against Hearts the week before, he had high hopes of making Hampden. In Dundee Greats Gallacher told author Jim Hendry that “I’d had a wee fall out with George Anderson over bonus payments during a close season tour of Turkey and I was still narked enough not to invite him to my wedding even though he was a good friend of my father, having played against him in goal for Aberdeen. I never liked playing for the reserves at any time but that was the worst. It was a bad memory for me.”
The team was announced on the Friday and Dundee were to line up (with positions on brackets): Bobby Henderson (gk), Gerry Follon (rb), Gordon Frew (lb), Ken Ziesing (rh), Alfie Boyd (ch) capt., Doug Cowie (lh), Jimmy Toner (rw), Albert Henderson (ir), Bobby Flavell (cf), Billy Steel (il), George Christie (rw).
George Anderson wasn’t fit enough to travel from his home in Aberdeen and he sent a telegram to Dens with a message to the players which was read to be out by trainer Reggie Smith once they had boarded the train on Friday afternoon. It said:
“To again reach the final you have overcome all hurdles. You have done this by producing football of real brilliance. You now face the last hurdle. I know that no matter how difficult, you will clear it and thereby create a record. Go to it boys! I’ll be listening.”
On Saturday morning, the exodus of fans started early with over 3500 travelling west with coach company W. Alexander while 120 fans were on buses from N.C.R. and another sixty from Dundee Gasworks. There was also a bus from the Dundee Mission to the Blind, ten of whom never miss a game while a group of war veterans organised a car pool from the British Legion.
Over 5000 supporters travelled by train; the first leaving for Glasgow at 8.10am with the 11.00am and 11.10am were going direct to Kings Park. For those terminating at Buchanan Street, a special Hampden service was being put on by the British Railways (Scottish Region) between Glasgow Central and Mount Florida with one train leaving every five minutes.
By the time of the 2.30pm kick off there were 51,830 inside Hampden with blue the predominant colour on the terracing. There was a uniformity amongst the crowd with the majority wearing bunnets and demob suits; a three piece suit and waistcoat that servicemen were given when they were demobilised from the armed forces at the end of the Second World War.
Coming out of the South Stand tunnel, Dundee were wearing their traditional dark blue shirts and white shorts while Kilmarnock wore their home colours of blue and white vertical stripes as the Scottish League had deemed that their kits did not clash.
Continual overnight rain had made the pitch heavy and the notorious Hampden wind was swirling strongly and whenKilmarnock captain Jimmy Middlemass won the toss, he chose to attack the west goal with the wind in their favour.Straight away it was evident that the Ayrshire part-timers were not merely there to make up the numbers and took the game to Dundee and bombarded the Dark Blues’ goal with a wave of attacks. It was a palpitating first half where Killie had Dundee at full stretch and only an inspired display of goalkeeping from Bobby Henderson kept the Killie attack at bay.
At the interval Dundee were lucky to still be on level terms but with wind advantage in the second half, they were hopeful of turning the tide.
The Dens defence had held up well but the attack had created little with youngster Bert Henderson badly affected by nerves and with Billy Steel closely marked by Johnny Russell, he was a shadow of his former self. The ‘root’ of the problem became clear a few days after the final however when Steel had no fewer than eleven teeth extracted!
George Christie had also picked up a nasty shoulder injury early on when he was brought down heavily and when he went into the dressing room at half time, he was suffering severe pain. The Dens Park doctor had to give him two pain killing injections and strap up the shoulder and at full time diagnosed the trouble as a pulled muscle in the shoulder.
Despite the pain, Christie nearly opened the scoring thirteen minutes after the break with a raking thirty yarder which was fisted onto the bar but it was a rare Dundee attack. The second half started where the first half ended with a string of Kilmarnock attacks and they very nearly took the lead on the hour when Gordon Frew had to make a last minute tackle when Henaughan was poised for a shot.
The turning point came however with just ten minutes left when Jimmy Toner went to his skipper Alfie Boyd and asked him if he could switch inside and when Boyd agreed he swapped places with Bert Henderson.
Two minutes later Toner got the ball from a midfield mix-up, feinted to make out to Henderson on the touchline and with the Killie defence on the wrong foot, put a peach of a pass through to Bobby Flavell. It was the first effective Dundee pass of the game and the first chance that Flavell had and he showed his appreciation by firing low past Niven to give Dundee a scarcely deserved lead.
It was Dundee 1 Kilmarnock 0 with just eight minutes left and on eighty-seven minutes, the Dark Blues doubled their lead and made certain that the cup was coming to Dens for the second year in a row. Bobby Henderson’s long punt reached the Killie penalty box and as centre-half Thyne hesitated, Bobby Flavell rushed in. The wee centre let the ball bounce twice before racing in to thump the ball into the corner of the net in exactly the same spot as five minutes before.
Dundee had become the first side in the competition’s history to retain the trophy and created the record that George Anderson had craved. The manager had followed the match at home with regular fifteen minute phone calls from Hampden in the first half and in the second half listened to the live commentary on the wireless.
According to The Sporting Post’s summary, “The League Cup goes back to Dundee but they will never have to fight harder for a trophy. They have the opportunism of Bobby Flavell to thanks. Those two late goals were masterpieces of quick thinking.”
Alfie Boyd received the trophy from the Scottish League president on Dundee’s behalf and was lifted shoulder on the pitch by his team mates. There were joyous scenes amongst the players and fans but the celebrations on the Hampden pitch were curtailed slightly after the heavens opened at the final whistle.
After drinking copious amounts of champagne from the cup in the dressing room, the Dundee party headed to Buchanan Street station to be greeted by a mass of Dark Blue and a huge cheer and Alfie Boyd showed the trophy off to the Dundee fans out of the window of the train as he had done the previous year. The Sporting Post announced that Dundee would be returning to Dundee West at 8.30pm and a jubilant crowd of 25,000 were booking their vantage points two hours before their arrival.
The train arrived five minutes late and the Dundee party were hustled out to their bus on Yeaman Shore via a side entrance. It wasn’t an open topped bus that greeted the players so they climbed up onto the roof to take the acclaim of their adoring public. George Christie was still in great pain and struggled to hoist himself onto the roof but once they were all on, Alfie Boyd held the cup aloft to a tumultuous cheer. The bus moved off at a snail’s pace and as it wound its way through Whitehall Cresent and Whitehall Street into High Street, the crowds were lined up ten deep with trams and motor cars brought to a standstill.
A large crowd had assembled in the City Square, where the bus had done a circuit twelve months before but they were disappointed when the bus went up Reform Street and straight down to West Ferry by Victoria Road. They were heading to chairman James Gellaty’s house in Albany Road for a club celebration and the crowd in the city centre dispersed quickly when they heard of the coach’s destination.
From the chairman’s house the party went on to the Royal British Hotel at 10pm for a victory dinner and a crowd of around 1500 converged to acclaim their heroes. It was chaos around the entrance and the players struggled to getin and when the crowd refused to budge, Bobby Flavell made a personal appeal from one of the windows. The crowd eventually moved but not before a sing song as their celebrations went on long into the night.
For a club like Dundee to become the first club to win the League Cup back to back was a phenomenal achievement and the players had earned themselves legendary status in the annals of Dark Blue history.
1952/53 Scottish League Cup
Aug 9thRaith Rovers (h)Section D2-1Burrell, Christie20,000
Line-up: Henderson, Frew, Cowan, Ziesing, Boyd, Cowie, Burrell, Toner, Flavell, Steel, Christie
Aug 13thAirdrieonians (a)Section D3-1Flavell (3)12,000
Line-up: Henderson, Frew, Cowan, Ziesing, Merchant, Cowie, Burrell, Toner, Flavell, Steel, Christie
Aug 16thClyde (h)Section D2-2Flavell, Steel21,000
Line-up: Henderson, Frew, Cowan, Ziesing, Merchant, Cowie, Burrell, Toner, Flavell, Steel, Christie,
Aug 23rdRaith Rovers (a)Section D2-1Steel (2)17,000
Line-up: Henderson, Follon, Cowan, Ziesing, Boyd, Cowie, Burrell, Gallacher, Flavell, Steel, Christie
Aug 27thAirdrieonians (h)Section D3-2Flavell (2), Toner19,000
Line-up: Henderson, Follon, Cowan, Ziesing, Boyd, Cowie, Toner, Gallacher, Flavell, Steel, Christie
Aug 30thClyde (a)Section D3-3Christie, Boyd (pen), Toner18,000
Line-up: Henderson, Follon, Cowan, Ziesing, Boyd, Cowie, Toner, Gallacher, Flavell, Steel, Christie
Sep 13thStirling Albion (a)Quarter-final 1stleg,1-3Burrell8,000
Line-up: B. Henderson, Follon, Cowan, Gallacher, Boyd, Ziesing, Burrell, A. Henderson, Flavell, Steel, Christie
Sep 17thStirling Albion (h)Quarter-final 2nd leg 5-0 (6-3 agg.) Flavell (2), Steel (2), Boyd (pen)24,000
Line-up: b. Henderson, Follon, Cowan, Ziesing, Boyd, Cowie, Toner, A. Henderson, Flavell, Steel, Christie
Oct 4thHibernian (Tynecastle)Semi-final2-1Steel, Flavell44,200
Line-up: B. Henderson, Follon, Cowan, Ziesing, Boyd, Cowie, Toner, A. Henderson, Flavell, Steel, Christie
Oct 25thKilmarnock (Hampden)Final2-0Flavell (2)51,830
Line-up: B. Henderson, Follon, Frew, Ziesing, Boyd, Cowie, Roner, A. Henderson, Flavell, Steel, Christie
For the Record:
Bobby Flavell: 10 appearances, 11 goals
Billy Steel: 10 appearances, 6 goals
George Christie:10 appearances, 2 goals
Ken Ziesing: 10 appearances
Bobby Henderson:10 appearances
Doug Cowie: 9 appearances
Jack Cowan: 9 appearances
Alfie Boyd:8 appearances, 2 goals
Jimmy Toner:8 appearances, 2 goals
Gerry Follon:7 appearances
Gerry Burrell:5 appearances, 2 goals
Tommy Gallacher:4 appearances
Albert Henderson:4 appearances
Gordon Frew:4 appearances
George Merchant:2 appearances
Number of Players Used-15
Number of Wins-7
Number of Draws-2
Number of Defeats-1
Number of Goals Scored-25
Number of Goals Conceded-14
Top Goal Scorer-Bobby Flavell (11 goals)
Highest Home Attendance-24,000 v Stirling Albion, Quarter-final 2nd leg, 17/9/1952
Highest Away Attendance-18,000 v Clyde, Sectional Tie, 30/8/1952
Highest Neutral Attendance-51,000 v Kilmarnock, Final, 25/10/1952
Highest Win-5-0 v Stirling Albion, Quarter-final 2nd leg, 17/9/1952
Biggest Defeat- 1-3 v Stirling Albion, Quarter-final 1st leg, 13/9/1952
Failed to Score:-0
Look out for the forthcoming book ‘Dundee’s Hampden Heroes’ by Kenny Ross which tells the full story of the Dark Blues’ three trips to Hampden in twelve months.
Source: Dundee Mad