Bobby Dougan

Scottish international footballer

Born: 3 December, 1926, in Glasgow.

Died: 7 February, 2010, in Glasgow, aged 83.

BOBBY Dougan, who has died at the age of 83, after a long fight against the ravages of Alzheimer's, was one of the unluckiest footballers in the history of Scottish football.

A Bridgeton boy, he attended John Street School, going from there to serve his apprenticeship as a structural draughtsman with Sir William Arrol & Co. After serving in the Royal Navy in the latter stages of the war he gained prominence as a classy wing-half in the Shawfield Juniors side which beat Bo'ness United, after a replay, to win the Scottish Junior Cup in season 1946-47. Dougan's playmaking with that side earned him Junior Scotland caps and resulted in Hearts beating Rangers in a race for his signature.

At Tynecastle, he became a centre-half and made the first of his 177 appearances for the club in a 1-3 league defeat at Motherwell's Fir Park, on 27 August, 1947.

The Rangers pair of Willie Woodburn – Scotland's first-choice centre-half – and George Young, who would be moved from right-back to centre-half should Waddell be unavailable – dominated the centre-half position for the national side in the early post-war years. For 16 straight internationals over three years from April 1947, it was a case of either-or in the number five Scotland shirt.

Then, for an end-of-season Hampden friendly against Switzerland, on 26 April, 1950, Dougan was blooded. He and East Fife's Allan Brown were the new caps in a Scotland side showing six changes from that which had lost the crucial Home International decider against England 11 days earlier. The Swiss were beaten 3-1, but, when English referee George Reader blew his final whistle, Dougan's full international career was over.

To make matters worse, he had to wait until the outcome of a campaign by Channel 4's Gary Imlach and The Scotsman, 55 years later, before the Scottish Football Association deemed his appearance worthy of a cap (at the time, Scotland players would only be awarded a cap if they had played against England, Wales or Northern Ireland).

Woodburn was recalled for the end-of-season continental tour to Portugal and France, the first of a further 14 straight games in the position for the big Ranger.

Dougan continued to turn in consistent performances for Hearts and was probably third-choice number five for Scotland, behind the two Rangers players, for the next two seasons. He was selected as centre-half for the Scottish League XI which beat the Irish League 4-0 in Belfast in September 1950, and was again at centre-half for the Irish League's visit to Ibrox the following September.

The Scottish League won this match 3-0, but Dougan sustained a serious ankle injury which kept him out of the game for a full year. He recovered and won a third Scottish League "cap", against the English League, again at Ibrox, in March 1953, Lawrie Reilly getting the goal in a 1-0 Scottish League win.

His injury jinx struck again shortly afterwards and he required knee surgery. In his absence Freddie Glidden laid claim to the number five shirt at Tynecastle and in December 1954 Dougan was allowed to leave the club, a cheque for 4,300 taking him to Kilmarnock, which had just been promoted back into Division A after seven years.

At Rugby Park he was popular with fellow players and fans, but his "dickie" knee seriously affected his time in Ayrshire. Signed to replace veteran centre-half and future chairman Bob Thyne, he made a winning debut at Rugby Park, Killie thumping Queen of the South 4-1 on 11 December, 1954, and went on to become a major force in Killie's successful campaign to stay up that season; they were second-bottom when he signed. However, he managed only 80 first team appearances over the five-and-a-half years he spent at the club. Towards the end of Malcolm Macdonald's tenure as manager he lost his first team place to Willie Toner and, having previously been a cup semi-finalist with Hearts, he was again disappointed when Toner was selected ahead of him for the 1957 Scottish Cup final, which Killie lost to Falkirk after a replay.

Toner, who also played for Scotland, and died some years ago, always acknowledged the help Dougan gave him when he first got into the Killie team, and greatly respected his mentor's footballing ability, although he wondered how Dougan could play in his Manfield Hotspur boots that, Toner joked, he "struggled to lift, they were so heavy".

However, under Macdonald and his successor, Willie Waddell, Dougan filled a key role as a "father figure" in the reserves. Then , at the end of season 1959-60, in which Killie finished second to Hearts in the League and lost the Cup Final to Rangers, he quietly retired, although he remained on the books until 1962.

Throughout his career Dougan was a part-time player, continuing to work for Arrol's and owning a sweet shop on Argyle Street. His football-related career was not over, however. He had a spell as mailroom manager with the SFA; starting work at Park Gardens after he had retired from his post-football employment with Arrol's.

Away from football he was a keen bowler and enjoyed dancing with his wife Marion (Rae), who died 12 years before he did.

Dougan did not fit the post-war stereotype of a centre-half: "If it moves – kick it; if it doesn't move – kick it till it does". He was always, first and foremost, a cultured footballer. In that respect he and Motherwell's Andy Paton, another centre-half whose career was overshadowed by Woodburn's, were unfortunate in their timing.

All three had a bit more football than a centre-half needed – Woodburn had the harder edge and he was the Rangers player. But, at a time when ball-playing centre-halves were rare – Dougan, Paton and Woodburn in Scotland, Neil Franklin and Jack Froggat in England and John Charles in Wales being obvious deviations from the norm of the time – Dougan rightly deserved to be ranked among the best, if one of the most unfortunate with the timing of injuries.

The Dougans had a son, Kenneth, who died in infancy, and twin daughters, Susan and Lesley. He is survived by his daughters and six grandchildren.