It is pleasing to discover that Albert Kidd does not take himself, or his status as villain to some and hero to others, too seriously. When he decided to apply for permanent residency in Australia it wasn’t because he was being pursued by a pack of Hearts fans, tempting though this scenario is to imagine.
It had simply become clear that being the surprise protagonist in a great drama played out one afternoon at Dens Park did not guarantee an upswing in his own football fortunes. Little more than a year later, he was on a plane to Australia. Before long he was filling out forms to become a resident.
Kidd did what anyone with his background would have done. He talked up his footballing deeds, focusing on one memorable substitute appearance, while adding cursory mentions of other skills and qualifications.
“I had two pages of my football achievements, soccer clinics, player of the year, the fact I played over 280 games, including one game in particular,” he explains.
“I had a small bit on toolmaking, which is what I did as an apprentice after leaving school. I went to immigration with this form, feeling pretty good about myself. The guy there said: ‘did you play for Scotland?’ I told him I once played for a Scottish select team.
“‘But did you play for the national team?’ I said: ‘well, no’. He said: ‘what to do then is get rid of all that football stuff and expand on the toolmaking. I said: ‘the toolmaking?’
“ ‘Yes’, he said. ‘Keep the football stuff to a minimum’. So I reversed it, and got residency. The guy was like, ‘yes, that’s perfect’. I phoned my dad. I said: ‘dad, remember you told me to get a trade? Best advice I got in my life’.
“Turns out they didn’t care I’d scored two of the most famous goals ever scored in Scottish football.”
Others did, of course, and still do. Venice, a cruise ship en route to Barcelona and various spots in Australia, where he still lives on the outskirts of Adelaide, are just some of the places where the legend of Albert Kidd has stretched. Just some of the places where two goals scored in the space of four or so minutes meant he was hailed – or hounded. Hailed is the operative term for those overjoyed to learn they have run into him. More often than not, these turn out to be Celtic supporters. Or, of course, fans of Hibernian, whose cup of schadenfreude overflowed that day, 30 years ago on Tuesday: 3 May, 1986. Kidd was even named player of the year by a Hibs supporters’ club based in Sydney.
Then there was the time he met Billy Connolly, outside the Hyatt hotel in Adelaide.
“That really made it hit home how big a thing it was,” he says. “I was coming out and he was coming up the main driveway. I waved to him and said: ‘How you doing?’ He said: ‘ah, you’re from Scotland.
“‘So what are you doing here?’ I told him I came across here to play for a Greek club, West Adelaide, and he was like: ‘oh you play football?’ I said: ‘yes, I used to play for Dundee. We share a common thing, I’m a Celtic man as well’.”
Kidd was surprised Connolly didn’t recognise him: “I still had the feather cut happening, and the moustache was still happening. ‘Look, I am going to say something to you: I scored a couple of goals that helped Celtic win the league in 1986’. And I kid you not, he went: ‘f***ing Albert Kidd!!’
“He grabbed me on the steps. He was basically jumping around with me. He said: ‘pleasure to meet you’.
“I told him the pleasure’s all mine!”
Not everyone is pleased to meet Albert Kidd. Now shorn of moustache and bubble perm, his identity is even less obvious to those he meets now.
He could probably stroll through Gorgie and barely draw a second glance, which is strange considering he is the “folk devil”, as newly published book AK 86: Two Shots in The Heart of Scottish Football has it, who shattered Hearts with a match-winning brace to hand the Premier Division title to Celtic.
Now a successful businessman in Australia, Kidd still sometimes bumps into Hearts fans, even on the other side of the world. “Well, being in construction, I was on construction sites a lot. There are a lot of Scots, especially in Perth. One guy on the site will go, ‘f***ing hell you will never guess who is working down there’. The next minute they are down abusing me!”
It’s a different story when he returns to Lochee, the area of Dundee where he grew up, round the corner from David Narey, and where Celtic fans tend to outnumber those of Dundee and Dundee United.
“There is a pub in Lochee called the Albert, but it gets called Kiddies. I think its owner used to be an Albert Kidd too. I had my 18th birthday in there actually. Even now, I go in it’s like: ‘god bless you wee man’. I don’t put my hand in my pocket. But it’s been 30 years. And you start to think, what is it with people?”
Still, Kidd clearly understands how the story holds its charge, with fate bringing Hearts and Celtic together at Tynecastle this afternoon. He is back in town to help promote a book on the remarkable climax to the 1985-86 season.
Hearts hadn’t lost for 31 games when Kidd wriggled free on the right to score his second goal of the afternoon for Dundee with three minutes left, meaning the shell-shocked visitors, in need of only a point from their last game to win the title, were dead and buried.
But that was only the half of it. On the same afternoon, Celtic were playing St Mirren at Love Street and needed a high-scoring win coupled with a Hearts defeat to wrest the title from the Gorgie side.
It was the Parkhead club’s final game on the back of seven – soon to be eight – straight wins and, if they had not fulfilled their part of the deal, Kidd would likely be only a footnote in history, remembered, if at all, for once being Dundee’s record transfer buy (£80,000 from Motherwell). However, with Celtic racking up the goals in Paisley – they were 5-0 up after only 54 minutes – everything changed. Kidd, named on the bench alongside John McCormack, detected nervousness. He was aware of there being a radio in the away dugout.
“It was something I wouldn’t have done myself,” he says.
“I was conscious of them knowing what was going on, I thought it was a silly move, and maybe distracting for the players, who might have been looking to the radio for updates. So I knew Celtic were winning handsomely. Cowboy [McCormack] was a right Celtic supporter, and he was saying: ‘Celtic are killing St Mirren’ – he was a former St Mirren player. But we [Dundee] were not affected by that. We had our own job to do.”
People tend to forget Dundee were hoping Rangers, with whom they were locked on 33 points, would come unstuck against Motherwell. Providing the Ibrox side dropped points in Graeme Souness’ first home match as manager, Dundee knew they would secure a first European spot since the early 1970s with victory. Like Hearts, they lost out on goal difference.
It probably adds insult to injury for Hearts supporters to note that Kidd truly did come from nowhere that afternoon.
If Alex MacDonald, the Tynecastle side’s manager, was looking for a potential danger man in the Dundee ranks, he might have settled on John Brown, the uncompromising but talented midfielder, or Graham Harvey, an awkward forward with extra motivation as a diehard Hibs fan.
MacDonald probably didn’t even think someone whose last start was on the first day of February was even likely to feature. Kidd didn’t either. Record transfer or not, he was struggling at Dundee. Prior to the final game, he scored only once that season, against Hamilton Accies in a League Cup tie.
And yet the bold Kidd had a feeling things were going to go his way. Not that he expected such premonitions were going to make any difference when he knocked on manager Archie Knox’s door the previous afternoon.
“The season was a write-off for me,” says Kidd. “The reason I spoke to Archie was I probably thought I had nothing to lose. You have to push your own barrow. I was capable of scoring goals, no doubt. I just thought they never used me well enough. I could have had a better career.”
“Archie was like: ‘come in’. I said: ‘look, I’d just like to say you should consider me for tomorrow. I have a really good track record against Hearts. Whenever I have played against Hearts, I have done well. I am not trying to force your hand. I am just saying if you look at my history, I have always done well against them, even when I was at Arbroath and Motherwell’.
“He said: ‘Ok, wee man, I will consider that. Appreciate you coming in’.
“I thought it would just fall on deaf ears. Archie’s secretary called me and said: ‘you’re in the squad for tomorrow’. We went for a pre-match meal at the Dundee FC club and then went to the dressing room, but I never expected to get on the bench.”
Kidd almost came to blows with Knox on a number of occasions, which is strange, since they were closer than this makes things sound: “He used to coach me as a youngster when I played at St Columba’s school and I liked Archie. I just don’t think he did me any favours.”
But the manager made the call that secured Kidd’s place in Scottish football history. There have been few more significant sentences uttered at Dens than the order Knox gave Jocky Scott, his assistant: “get Albert on”.
In the 61st minute of the 36th league game Kidd replaced the injured Tosh McKinlay, triggering a chain of events that led to Celtic securing a league title that has remained in the Old Firm’s grip ever since.
“The manager had to reshape the team because Tosh is a full-back,” he says. “I came on on the right of midfield. It was not really my position.” But Kidd, in contrast to the tense opposition, had energy to burn.
“If you look at the tape, there is a moment where John Colquhoun breaks away and it was just as well I ran all the way back because he would have been in on goal, but I just nicked the ball off him.”
Kidd’s first goal, with seven minutes left, was from a Robert Connor corner (which Kidd earned). The ball broke fortuitously at his feet, and he duly swept it beyond Henry Smith.
“I remember after the first goal went in, they shut down,” he says.
Kidd took advantage of Hearts’ dazed state to score a second goal, skinning fellow sub Kenny Black on the touchline before bearing down on the box, where he played a one-two with Harvey. “Normally you wouldn’t skip past players the way I did,” he says. He then delivered a second shot to the heart.
Talk about an impact substitute. His cameo provoked a variety of emotions, even within the Dundee camp.
“There’s one thing that sticks in my mind,” he says. “When I came into the dressing room at the end I was feeling rosy pink about myself, I was sitting where I normally sit. And Archie was sitting right across from me. He didn’t normally come into the dressing-room, but he was there then. He looks at me and says: ‘f**k’s sake wee man’.
“I was saying to myself: is that a compliment or what is he actually saying? “I always wondered about that, still do: what did he mean? Is he disappointed? I mean, Archie swayed towards Rangers. I am not even sure he was that happy. I have a lot of time for Archie. But I was never sure what he meant.”
Seven minutes in May changed everything for Hearts, and Celtic, but altered little in Kidd’s own circumstances. “Save for the death threats, nothing really changed!” he says.
“A guy wiped his backside on a piece of paper and sent it to me – a Hearts supporter.
“Oh yes, there was also a photo of me with my young lads [Kidd has two sons and two daughters] in the paper, and this was sent to me. ‘Hope you feel smart about yourself, we are coming to get you’. I remember the photograph vividly.”
Kidd, now 58, is puzzled by the suggestion he is somehow considered notorious, because, he protests, reasonably, his perceived crime was doing what he was paid to do, which was score goals. If there was any complaint, it might have come from the Dundee fans; he didn’t scored enough (and, indeed, after his famous double, didn’t score again for Dundee).
But then Kidd, too, could argue he wasn’t given the opportunity.
Kidd started the first game of the 1986-87 league season. This happened to be against Celtic and he watched them raise the title flag, won thanks chiefly to him. But Kidd suffered a familiar fate when he was dropped to the bench for Dundee’s next game (by this time Scott had taken over from Knox as manager).
He never did get that lap of honour at Celtic Park, another Scottish football myth busted. But there was a standing ovation.
“When we went out on to the park it just worked out that I was last to leave after the warm-up,” he recalls. “The ball went away over to the Jungle. I ran across to get the ball, hence the reason I was last by about 25 yards coming off the park.
“I will always remember the crowd applauding as I was walking off. There must have been about 60,000 there that day, it is something I will never forget. The hairs were standing up on the back of my neck.”
But there were times when he felt like a marked man, although he often didn’t help himself. Even now, he leaves himself open to the accusation of revelling in another team’s misfortune. He is guest of honour tomorrow at a function at Celtic Park to celebrate a league title win in which Kidd, although he never played for Celtic, performed such a crucial role.
Hearts fans were never likely to forgive and forget, even when he switched clubs the following season.
“One of the first games for Falkirk was against Hearts at Brockville,” he recalls. “Every time I touched the ball it was ‘booooo!’ The place was jam- packed.
“There were more Hearts fans there than Falkirk supporters. I had a 50-50 with John Robertson and I went right through him and hurt him. He got up and gave me a wee dink on the head, and I went down and started rolling around. He got a red card. Can you imagine how the Hearts supporters reacted? They were going to kill me.
“Scrimmy [former Dundee teammate Brian Scrimgeour] was playing, and I needed to go into Scrimmy’s [car] boot to get away. It was his turn to drive. I had to get into his boot to get out of Falkirk.”
It’s a strange life being feted by clubs he never played for, while at the same time knowing Hearts supporters can barely bring themselves to mention his name.
And it is interesting, if largely unremarked upon, to note Kidd could have put the spoke in Dundee United’s wheel three years prior to taking centre stage against Hearts, with Dens Park the venue for some earlier last-day title drama in 1983.
With Aberdeen and Celtic also gaining victories that afternoon, Dundee’s neighbours needed to win to claim their first Scottish championship, and they did, narrowly – 2-1.
“I missed a header that would have stopped them winning the league,” says Kidd. “You can see it on YouTube, I remember it vividly. I just could not get above it. Had I scored there they wouldn’t have won the league! It was almost the same situation.”
As history now records, Kidd’s destiny as a destroyer of dreams was merely delayed.
l AK 86: Two Shots In The Heart of Scottish Football is published by Teckle Books and will be available on Kindle, iBooks, Kobo and other digital formats from Tuesday 3 May for £3.95.