LIKE all boys I have a lot to thank my mother for, including two football games I would have missed through my father being unavoidably detained and me not deemed old enough to be out on my own in those bovver boy-marauding early 1970s.
“Three-all in the first game, wasn’t it? Then we won the replay 3-0,” says Jocky Scott of that quarter-final against Hibernian 40 years ago. “There must have been close to 30,000 in the ground. A few thousand more locked out. An incredible night.” The expectancy in the Archibald Leitch stand and out on the shallow terraces was replicated in the dressing-room. “We really thought we were going to do something in the cup that year.”
No wonder. Third round, Dundee won at Pittodrie. Fourth round, they scored three at Ibrox, two for John Duncan, he of the immaculate Action Man painted-on hair, and one for Jocky, a bit wilder, barnet-wise, a bit more interesting. Then, after Hibs were seen off, who were Dundee going to get in the semis? Hearts or better still city rivals United? No, Celtic, as per bloody usual.
“Four times between ’70 and ’75 we drew them in the semi-finals and four times we lost,” sighs Scott. “The team in ’74 was probably the best in my years there: Thomson Allan in goal, Bobby Wilson, Tommy Gemmell, Iain Phillip, George Stewart, Robert Robinson, Bobby Ford, Jimmy Wilson, John, myself and the other guys. But semis are the hardest games, much harder than finals. Psychologically for us they were these muckle great walls. Playing nine-in-a-row Celtic we couldn’t climb over them.”
With the mist enveloping the city like a giant scabby dog blanket, we meet in the hotel where Dundee were formed, now called the Malmaison but in 1893 the Mathers Temperance, as the Dens Parkers prepare to have another go at the Scottish in the pick of today’s ties against Aberdeen, Scott’s hometown team, which he also served with distinction.
He’s 66, dapper in light blue rather than dark, with the hair now short and grey but the moustache is still intact. The best ’70s ’tache in Scottish football? It’s right up there. Others were more demonstrative, very keen to draw attention to themselves with their girth and droop, but Jocky’s didn’t have to try too hard to be classy, just like the man himself. As a result, the football card bearing his image is emblematic, and guaranteed to prompt wistful smiles about an era of bigger leagues, rumbustious games in the mud and snow, characters abounding. “I don’t know if it was a cowboy film or what,” he says of the mouser’s possible inspiration, now lost in the mists of time like all those failed Dundee semi-finals. “If you’d told me I’d still have it four decades later I’d have laughed, though I don’t know if that would have been the wife’s reaction.”
We discuss two legends of football, one who’s just died and the other ailing, although Arthur Montford would blush at being mentioned in the same breath as Pele. Scott, equally self-effacing, says he can’t recall a piece of Montfordian description relating to himself. “I remember his jackets, though, and loved that he was such a patriot when commentating on Scotland games.”
Amid all that shuttling up and down the A90, Dundee to Aberdeen and back again, Scott nipped off to Seattle for a couple of years to turn out for the Sounders. I’m fascinated by Scots in the NASL, having recently enjoyed listening to the New World adventures of Davie Robb and Drew Busby. The former boasted of a night of passion with Olivia Newton-John, while the latter travelled all the way to Toronto and still couldn’t shake off Willie McVie, though at least over there the hard-man centre-half was a team-mate. Scott laughs and reckons his soccer experience fits somewhere in the middle of those two. “I played against Pele in his last-ever game, for the New York Cosmos. The Giants Stadium was a 70,000 sellout. Of course I asked to swap shirts with the great man but our captain Adrian Webster had got in first, before the game. Pre-arranged swaps went on even then.” Forgive me, but who was Adrian Webster – couldn’t Jocky have pulled rank? “He came from lower down the leagues in England, as did a lot of the guys in our team, until we got Mike England and then Bobby Moore. Bobby was brilliant. He was a World Cup winner with a hundred England caps and yet he never mentioned any of that, never mind bragged about it. In Seattle he was just one of the lads. Liked a bevvy – loved one, in fact.”
Back to Dundee, then, and it’s 50 years since Scott began his strange love affair with Dens, when the old First Division title triumph was still being eulogised in the howffs. Scott had five separate spells there – two as a player and three as manager. Each stint as boss lasted about two years, long enough to pack in a few thrills and many more frustrations. He smiles when I suggest that in this very building it might have been written into the articles of association that melodrama must always lurk, that the club can only ever be a few months from the next crisis. “It’s an unfortunate scenario,” he says. “Since 1987 until now Dundee FC have attracted the kind of folk, as owners and directors, who’ve had their own agendas for getting involved and it’s all been about their profile rather than that of the club. As a result, supporters, players and managers have suffered.”
He finished up the last time in 2010. For the very last time? “I would think so,” he says. So how would he describe his life now? “I’m bored, to be honest. I play golf – a lot. I try not to get under Elaine’s feet at home. I’ve got eight grandchildren and am on pick-up duty after we’re done here but I’d love to still be involved in football somehow.” He applies for jobs; so far nothing doing. “Either I was bad at what I did, which I don’t think was the case, or my age is counting against me, which seems more likely.”
He won’t be at today’s game – Grandad’s on patrol again – but would love for Dundee to break the Scottish Cup hoodoo, to end the taunt from the other side of the street: “Won it in 1910 and never again”. He’s seen Paul Hartley’s Dark Blues twice. “They’re totally different but in fairness they’ve had some good results and at the moment they’re holding their own in the Premiership. For too long they’ve been out of the top flight and that’s not been good for the city.”
But for the televised tie at Dens there are bound to be some divided loyalties for Scott, who was born in Aberdeen and whose father Willie was a centre-forward at Pittodrie and also for Newcastle United. “By the time I came along he’d stopped playing, but he told me he was pretty good. We used to watch Aberdeen together, the team of [Graham] Leggat, [Paddy] Buckley and [Archie] Glen with Freddie Martin in goal.”
Down on Tayside, he borrowed some of the style of Aberdeen’s greatest football son. “Because he was a fellow Aberdonian and the star man at the time, I clasped my cuffs like Denis [Law] and copied his goal celebration, one arm shooting into the air.” Some of Jocky’s managers, including Davie White, wanted him to tuck his shirt into his shorts. He complied, until he got onto the pitch.
Scott always struck me as a pretty modern kind of footballer, a forward who was almost playing in “the hole” before it was discovered. “I was possibly an instinctive player. I liked attacking. I liked dribbling. I liked trying to score goals.” Best-ever goal? “I wouldn’t have a clue.” That’s one for the fans to debate because there were bags of them. Finishing on 153, he remains Dundee’s second-highest scorer of all time, one behind Alan Gilzean.
Semi-finals against Celtic may have been a problem; not the League Cup final of 1973. The miners’ strike meant there was no coal for the floodlights and on a ferocious winter’s day it sadly seems very Dundee that hundreds of their fans had their buses turned back when a postponement seemed certain. After slithering back to the east coast, half a dozen players broke off from the official celebrations to look in on Jim McLean in Broughty Ferry who’d not long moved from assistant manager at Dens to take over at Tannadice. “We wanted to have a drink with Jim who we felt should share in the success as he’s made us all better players,” explains Scott. “It wasn’t meant as a slights against Davie White but he ended up fining us.” One by one, the “Broughty Ferry Six” would leave Dundee. “The bad feeling from that night never really went away. Otherwise why would the club have got rid of George [Stewart], Gordon [Wallace] and myself?”
Jocky doubled his basic earnings – from £35 to £70 – by becoming a Don and quickly repeated his League Cup triumph over Celtic with Davie Robb scoring again, this time on the pitch. The difference between his new club and his old one was “like night and day – Aberdeen were superbly run”. Ally MacLeod was the manager. “A great character, an extrovert – he used to baffle us in training. I was golfing with Drew Jarvie the other day and we were recalling some of Ally’s techniques. He’d organise practice matches on the car park next to Pittodrie but with conditions attached. You could only pass the ball backwards, or you always had to overtake the receiver. We took that stuff into real games.”
Scott was soon heading back down the A90 again, to finish off the playing career and begin the management one. “I thought I did quite well,” he says, and these words could also apply to his two subsequent spells in the Dens dugout, “but the chairman wanted to bring in his mate, the boy Dave Smith, so I was delighted to return to Aberdeen.”
He became joint manager with Alex Smith, a partnership which brought the Dons another League Cup, a near-miss for the Premier League title and, at last for our man, the Scottish Cup in 1990. “It was my only regret from my playing days that I never quite managed to appear in the final.” He looked in on Smith this week and the pair were soon reminiscing. “There was a piece on Hans Gillhaus in your sister paper Scotland on Sunday and that got us nattering about the great team we had. Alex was seen as the manager while I looked after training and it seemed to work okay. Did we ever argue? All the time. Was I a disciplinarian? Yes.”
These dalliances with Aberdeen seemed to have produced only sweet moments. Whereas down at Dundee … well, the path of love is never smooth. Spurned most horribly as the ill-starred Bonetti brothers revolution brought glitz and calamity, he vowed never to go back but did return, only to have to leave again amid more sadness.
And now? Jocky Scott looks well on golf and the grandkids and you wonder why on earth he’d risk more melodrama and perhaps another dismissal by re-entering management. But football is in the blood and so, despite everything, are the club where he scored all those goals he can’t remember, each of them despatched with desperado swagger. “With Dundee and me there’s unfinished business,” he says, and although you can never really tell behind those whiskers, I think he might be smiling. So if in some future time of trouble they were to send for him, casting him in the role of an emergency blowout specialist, a kind of Dark Blue Adair, would he answer the call? He’s definitely smiling now: “Of course I would.”