Dixon a loveable soap opera rogue

IT IS perhaps a measure of the notoriety of a man that a lonely death in a car accident somewhere in Mexico can provoke front page news in a Scottish city he rarely visited.

Ron Dixon is a name that might only mean much to fans of Dundee FC, and perhaps long-time Brookside acolytes, but his reputation will linger longer in Tayside than he ever did.

For five years the Canadian entrepreneur owned the Dens Park club, having been attracted to Dundee by an unrealised aim to build an ice rink in the city, and, he insisted, the fact that he had a Scottish granny.

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It is said that his interest was diverted to the football club when, driving past Dens Park one day, he saw then owner Angus Cook’s Rolls-Royce parked outside.

Having bought the club in early 1992, he arrived at Dens for the first time, only to be met by creditors from the Bank of Scotland, ready to wind Dundee FC up.

Dixon was forced there and then to write out a cheque for 100,000, purchasing the club more time, and buying the affections of those Dundee fans who had reached such a point of desolation that they were willing to follow so readily a man with a background that was, at best, bathed in mystery.

"Mr Dixon was promised a ticker tape welcome," grumbled Cook three years ago, after the Dixon revolution had spluttered, and died. "And he was given that. All he has delivered is sheriff officers, writs and debts."

Yet Dixon was certainly a man who knew how to play to the crowd. Shortly after becoming chairman of Dundee, he hosted a fans rally in a function suite in Edinburgh, attended by over 50 people.

"We aren’t interested in 8th or 2nd place in the Premier League," he declared, wearing a tartan tie and a ski jacket. "We want to be challenging for top spot." By the time he left, in 1997, they were…. in the First Division.

Later, in a share prospectus, he described a new south enclosure that will "tower over the playing surface like a colossus". The only bricks that were laid were those blocking off turnstiles, rendered superfluous by the ever-decreasing crowds.

To be fair to Dixon, the share issue had been the victim of apathy, and was wretchedly under subscribed. He was beginning to sense that making a dime in Scottish football would take more than simple business acumen.

Yet the period was never less than colourful, with Simon Stainrod appointed manager, and an ill-fated greyhound track erected around the pitch.

At the last game of season 91/92, against Montrose, Dixon thrust a 10 note into the grubby mits of a fanzine seller outside the main stand, telling him to "keep the change", and expressing a wish that the editor get in touch.

He did, and was soon spending an hour in Dixon’s company in the oak-panelled Dens Park boardroom, listening to the Canadian tell him that "I see a lot of me in you".

It wasn’t perhaps what the young fellow wanted to hear. After all, the man known as the "Vancouver Warlord" had been mentioned in connection with the mafia back home in Canada.

Indeed, he was the first to admit to a hard nose when it came to business practise: "I have probably cut a few corners here and there," he said in 1992.

"I probably left some blood on the table when I was younger."

Yet Scottish football, he admitted in his own inimitable style just days before selling Dundee to the Marr brothers, was "a different ball game completely", describing it as "bung heaven".

He claimed to have lost over 500,000 due to irregularities in transfer deals during his early days as chairman.

In an almost valedictory address, he called it an "eye-opening" five years.

"In retrospect I would have hoped the chairman had been more cynical, and trusted a few less people. But now I’ve done my time, and I got parole".

Dixon left Dundee in Spring 97, but, in truth, he had departed the club over two years earlier. Having been wooed back to Scotland by Dundee’s appearance in the League Cup Final, in November ’95, he told them they were on their own, and ordered Morten Wieghorst to be sold, to pay off at least some of the Canadian’s debts elsewhere.

Dixon came back only once more, to sell up. It has been a solemn time for former Dundee chairmen. Andrew Drummond, from whom Dixon bought the club, was recently jailed for embezzlement, while a rather more wholesome chap, Ian Gellatly, sadly passed away in April, after a lifetime’s involvement at Dens.

It seems ironic that news of Dixon’s death, aged 61, should come on the day that Dundee confirmed their ascendancy in the city, with a resounding 3-0 win over Dundee United.

This had been Dixon’s first aim - "to better that lot across the road". His time at Dundee had known its share of exhilarating highs, but mostly it was dismal lows.

A Dundee spokesman yesterday confirmed there would be no minute’s silence before the Kilmarnock game at Dens Park next week.