IF DUNDEE and Falkirk share a rich cup history - and they do having been drawn against each other in the Scottish Cup for the third successive season and fourth time since 1992 - they also have in common a character whose name is still continually evoked in the bars of both towns, and in the manner adopted by sailors who seek to harden adventures into legend.
Simon Stainrod scored the goals which took Falkirk into the Premier League as champions in 1990, before leaving months later to join Dundee and steering them to the same title, this time having been promoted to player-manager midway through the season.
These are times which deserve to be recalled, and a meeting between the clubs at Brockville this afternoon seems as good an excuse as any to remember scenes from history which usually had reporters writing of this "maverick Stainrod". He enjoyed it too, claiming only two regrets: ever meeting the directors at Dundee, who later all but sacked him, and staying with Ayr United having saved them from what had once been considered certain relegation to the then nascent Third Division.
His name might, to Somerset Park regulars, provoke a taste which is nauseating and corrosive like some kind of poison, since his tenure there quickly soured after an initially bright dawn, but of those who pack the terraces at Brockville this afternoon there will be few who cannot say they were not anchored to the point by his charms and eccentricities.
Only Stainrod could don a fedora on the touchline, and get away with it. He once inspired Dundee to a famous victory over Rangers looking like a mobster, before further distinguishing himself with his post-match comments about going for "their throats and ripping them out". This wasn’t your usual post-match analysis. This was not the vernacular employed by 99 per cent of managers working today.
"That was my best moment at Dundee, especially that quote," says Stainrod proudly. Invariably his best moments involve a ruffling of someone’s feathers. "I got a phone call from a chap who was then my agent and who was also friendly with people at Rangers. He said: ‘A word of advice, Simon. You are upsetting one or two important people in Scotland.’ I just had to laugh."
He was sometimes the object of fun too, of course. The tale which involves Ian McCall and one of Stainrod’s shoes has proved one of the most enduring of recent times, proving that mud is not the only brown substance which sticks. "He was an intelligent lad," says Stainrod of the player who did as much as any to ensure Dundee were anointed First Division champions under his tenure 11 years ago. "He could play, had lots of skill and ability. When I had him he was up and down mentally, and it was unfortunate the way things panned out between me and him. But I really liked him as a lad. I’m glad he is doing well."
McCall’s move to Dundee United is one of the few details of the Scottish game with which he is currently familiar. He knows his old buddy Jim Duffy is manager at Dens, having brought him back to Dundee to be his assistant in 1992. However, ask him to analyse this afternoon’s game and you might as well have requested him to explain the motion of the stars and the moon: "I just hope they draw, and keep on drawing."
He was yesterday concerned only with finding his way to Manchester United’s training ground, where he was meant to feature in a match against the Old Trafford club’s backroom staff for a team of All-Stars but was still fighting with traffic ten minutes after kick-off. "It’s just a selection of ex-pros and Coronation Street and Brookside people. It’s not a bad team, so long as no one from Corrie shows up."
It is his first game in two years after an Achilles tendon problem. The birth 18 months ago of twins was also never likely to do anything but hamper his recreational options, although he says he is now pursuing an interest in rugby union. An offer to attend today’s Calcutta Cup match between England and Scotland had to be declined due to a previous commitment, though this does not involve a trip to Brockville for what promises to be the tie of the quarter-finals.
"I haven't got a clue," he says when asked whether he keeps up with either Falkirk or Dundee. "Apart from John Hughes and Owen Coyle I could not name another player who will be playing. I only know those two because somebody told me yesterday." To be fair to Stainrod, who played for 11 clubs, following the fortunes of each one would form a full-time activity. He now works for his own company, Matchday Media, having realised football’s currently fragile economy was not conducive to making agents like him any richer. He has no regrets about missing football’s gravy train as a player.
"I was lucky," he continues. "I had two dreams: playing at Wembley and playing for England. I sat on the bench for England [on a South American tour] and played in an FA Cup final." It is fair to say he had no wish as a boy to step out at Brockville, home of the club he refers to, on account of an even then crumbling stadium, as "Ramshackle Rovers".
His arrival sparked a regeneration of the team, if not the ground. "That year was probably the most fun I had playing, even though, if I am brutally honest, it was all a bit too easy. I had the pleasure of meeting Falkirk fans. You only come across things like that once in a life-time. I meet Falkirk fans all across the world and the things they say are so kind. It brings a tear to my eye. All I ever wanted to do was entertain them."