Craig Brewster was the first player to score a winner for Dundee United against Rangers in the Scottish Cup – and he’s tipping Jackie McNamara’s side to add to Ally McCoist’s misery by coming out on top in their semi-final at Ibrox on Saturday.
The 47-year-old, now a youth coach with Brighton, notched the only goal of the 1994 final between the clubs at Hampden and he believes United can go all the way again this year.
United also won the trophy in 2010 but Brewster will always be remembered as the first man to take world football’s oldest cup back to Tannadice.
“We were the underdogs and there were good reasons for that,” he said. “They were well on their way to their nine-in-a-row and were also going for a double treble, which had never been done before. They were a formidable team. However, we’d gone to Ibrox earlier that season and won 3-0 – we were three up inside 19 minutes – and that gave us belief because we knew that they were beatable.
“Ivan Golac, our manager, was a big help in that regard. He wasn’t shy and he told everyone who would listen that we were going to win. During the build-up to the final, Walter Smith banned his players from speaking to the media but Ivan invited the TV cameras to our hotel the night before the big game. He created a party atmosphere and we all had a laugh, which relaxed us. United had lost all six finals prior to that one but there was no fear under Ivan.”
Brewster claims that the laid-back, outspoken Golac deserves credit for taking all the pressure away from his players.
“We felt confident going into it and I got our goal two minutes into the second half,” he said. “Gordan Petric punted the ball up from the back and I flicked it on for Christian Dailly. He got the break of the ball and was through on goal. He looked certain to score but – to be perfectly honest – I was praying the ball would come back off the post. When it did, I had a tap-in.
“That proved to be the winner and it was a great feeling, especially since I had stood on the terraces at Hampden as a fan for five of the previous finals. My brother and my dad were there and, when your dad tells you that you’ve given him the happiest day of his life, that’s a special moment.
“I’d come through the ranks at Tannadice, signing as a ten-year-old and staying until I was 17 when Jim McLean let me go, so it meant a lot to me and it still feels like yesterday. After the game we went to Trinidad and Tobago, something which had been tied into the signing of Jerren Nixon, and after that, as cup winners, we were invited to take part in a tournament in Kuala Lumpur when Celtic pulled out.
“It was an unforgettable summer – and all thanks to that tap-in. It wasn’t even close to the best goal that I’ve ever scored but, whenever I go back to Dundee, people still come up to me and thank me for it.”
Brewster will be watching on television when United and Rangers clash again next weekend and he argues that having home advantage could work against Ally McCoist’s side.
“From what I hear, Rangers even have their usual dressing room so this is definitely a home game for them and the SFA should have moved it to a different venue,” he said. “However, the United lads will be nursing a grievance because of that and they should use it to provide extra motivation. On top of that, the Rangers fans will still be unhappy after their Ramsdens Cup final defeat by Raith Rovers so a bad start this weekend will see them get on the players’ backs.
“I think the pace United have from middle to front should be enough to take them through.”