DUNDEE United legend Paul Hegarty last night paid tribute to former team-mate Ralph Milne after he passed away following his long-running health problems.
An emotional Hegarty spoke about Milne, who died in hospital aged just 54, soon after hearing his ex-United colleague had died having endured well-documented alcohol problems.
Former Scotland and Tannadice defender Hegarty insisted local lad Milne ought to be remembered for the unforgettable memories which he gave the Tangerine faithful during his time starring for the Tayside club. The highlight came on the day he scored in their 2-1 win over local rivals Dundee at Dens Park back in 1983 to clinch Jim McLean’s side their first ever Scottish Premier League trophy.
Hegarty, who played almost 500 times for the Tannadice club, said: “It’s hard to talk at a time like this.
“I just feel sorry for what’s happened and that was my first emotion on hearing this very sad news, especially for someone to pass away so young.
“Being an ex-team-mate, I can say that Ralph Milne was a fantastic talent whom I had the pleasure playing alongside.
“And, for me, that’s how he should be remembered, for his performances in a Dundee United jersey. He was the kind of player who put bums on seats – simple as that – and United fans loved him for that and understandably so.
“Ralphie was a talisman. He could change games in a split-second with his skill, pace and vision.
“He had everything you wanted in a front player and there’s not too many players you can say that about.”
Milne will be remembered for his league-winning strike and some top-notch performances as the illustrious United side of the 1980s also hit the heights in Europe.
Hegarty added: “Looking back, Ralphie was like a catalyst that year in 1983.
“It was a tremendous season and he played a leading role in some of our best results that season.
“We made history that year and, at the drop of a hat, he could influence a game just like that.
“If it wasn’t going our way, we always knew Ralphie could do something special for us at the other end of the field.
“It was a great feeling to have a player like that within your ranks as he could take some amount of pressure off you.
“He probably should have stayed a lot longer at Dundee United but he moved on elsewhere, which was testament to his ability.”
Hegarty rated Dundee-born Milne up there with some of the finest players he played with and, as such, he was inducted into Dundee United’s Hall of Fame alongside stars such as Paul Sturrock, Eammon Bannon and Dave Narey.
Hegarty, also a member of the club’s Hall of Fame, shudders to think what Milne would be worth now had he been playing in the modern-day market.
He said: “Who knows what Ralphie would have been worth?
“These days, you look around and see players going for £30/40m when they’ve hardly played 100 games for their club.
“There were few like Ralphie for what he could do off the cuff.
“That’s the Ralphie I’ll remember and I’m sure the United fans will too, and anybody else who was fortunate enough to see him play during his career.”