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The Dark Blues
  • 1976-77 Pirie & Sinky Rule

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    How the whisky flowed as Pirie and Sinclair scolded the Bairns!

    We venture back again with Billy Campbell's Ghost, this time he remembers the days when the likes of Pirie and Sinky were scoring goals for fun.

    At the end of season 1975/76 Dundee had sadly been relegated from the inaugural Premier League and doom and gloom were the thoughts of fans as the First Division loomed and the prospect of trips to places they had never even dreamt of visiting before became reality.

    Alloa, Dumbarton, etc were unfortunately the places to visit for the next three seasons as that is how long it took Dundee to regain their top-league status after a real struggle to come to grips with life in the lower reaches of Scottish football.

    In season 1976/77, Dundee jousted in vain for a promotion spot with two outstanding teams for the First Division as a superb St.Mirren side and a slick Clydebank outfit powered their way into the Premier League at Dundee' s expense.

    With Alex Ferguson at the helm at Love St. and Davie Cooper inspiring the lads at Kilbowie, Dundee were left a sad third in the league, to think again!

    There were some bright spots that season as Dundee fans got the winning habit(although not enough) and some were known to admit that the more romantic trips were quite enjoyable as new pubs and pies were sampled - also there was the comfort that every game was like a home game as Dundee carried an excellent away support, even in the doldrums of the First Division.

    One of Dundee's favourite opponents that season was Falkirk who suffered under a barrow-load of goals home and away, and in particular a dazzling 8 - 0 gubbing at Brockville on 22 January 1977.

    The main thorns in the flesh of the Bairns were Gordon Strachan in midfield and up front the deadly duo of Billy Pirie and Eric Sinclair.

    In the game in question, the Dundee line-up was, Donaldson, Ford, Philip, Caldwell and Johnston; Strachan, Hoggan, Pirie, Sinclair, Purdie and Hutchinson.

    Eric Sinclair remembers the game for a number of reasons but in particular the scoring exploits of Billy Pirie.

    'I was part-time by this time and didn't even train at Dens, in fact ironically I trained twice a week at Brockville so Billy and myself had no special training routines at all - we just seemed to complement each other and had a fair scoring record. In fact Billy grabbed around 44 goals one season and I remember a whisky company awarded a case of whisky for each hat-trick in the league that season and as it was shared out we had quite a few bottles each on a regular basis.'

    'My dad was getting to the stage where he almost got sick of the stuff!'

    In the 8 - 0 game Pirie grabbed four goals while Sinky stuck away a respectable hat-trick! - Another two cases of Scotch for the boys - maybe we are closer to the reason for the three years in the First Division!

    Dundee also beat Falkirk 6 - 0 that season so it's understandable that they were sick of the sight of the Dark Blues in these days! Strachan and Ian Purdie were outstanding that day', recalls Sinky.

    'I had a lot of respect for these two and while I realise Purdie did not make the same impact in the game, he was a player with great skill but his problem was inconsistency.'

    'Pirie of course was dynamite in the box and although could be viewed as a bit lazy in style, he certainly knew where the net was. Wee Gordon Strachan was magnificent and was always destined to make it to the top as he has now proved and I think the tough battling of the First Division was not his type of game and sadly he left.

    Eric remembers many good players at Dens but apart from the above, rates Iain Ferguson highly and still believes he can do a great job at any club.

    'Fergie was another with a perceived lazy style but he was brilliant and every time he had the ball, we all expected something to happen. There's not many players you can say that about.'

    'The best player I played with was Jocky Scott who was just something else. Jocky had the lot and was a joy to play alongside.'

    Eric played under a few managers at Dens - Davie White, 'He knew the game very well' , Donald Mackay, 'great enthusiast, great bloke, who I actually fell out with on occasion but Donald never held it against you - he was an absolute gentleman.

    Frank Upton was Donald's coach at Dens and he was a huge influence at the time using discipline as a key to success and it was under him that the Dee s finally went up and at the same time reached the League Cup Final.

    Eric remembers the game well and although he had a goal disallowed, magnanimously says that United were worthy 3-0 winners on the day with Hegarty and Narey rated highly in his list of very difficult opponents.

    A couple of games stick out in Eric's memory in particular. 'I remember the League Cup Semi against Ayr at Dens when we came from behind to win 3-2 on a very misty night with all the Dundee fans in the Provy Road end as the South Enclosure was having seating installed! Our second and third goals went in at the T.C. Keay end and as the game wasn't on telly most Dundee fans wouldn't have much of a view of the goals- but mine was a beauty!'

    'I also remember a Scottish Cup tie against Brora Rangers when we went in at half-time at 1 - 1 and Jocky, who was Donald Mackay' s assistant by this time went barmy! We won 2 - 1 eventually when I notched a late goal but for a while a great giant - killing act was on the cards. '

    Sinky still has a great interest in the game and coaches a local amateur side, Cambusbarron and still when he gets the time goes along to Brockville to see the Bairns.

    Eric was in the hotel business but found it very time-consuming and moved into the confectionery sales business so you could say he is working for sweeties and meeting all-sorts!

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