Last week's feature on the Leeds v. Stuttgart game whetted my appetite to do further research into Dundee's jousts with the great Leeds United team of the sixties and seventies during our Fairs Cup (now the UEFA Cup) campaign of season 1967/68.
LEEDS & DUNDEE – THE FAIREST OF CITIES
Dundee had already reached the League Cup final that season and gone down in heroic fashion to the all-conquering Celtic by an amazing 3-5, and this early season form was perhaps an indication of what was to come later that season in Europe!
Dundee found themselves in the semis after a great run, taking the scalps of DWS Amsterdam, Royal Liege and FC Zurich on the way with an outstanding performance in Liege being the highlight - a 4-1 victory with ALL FOUR goals being scored by the great unpredictable, George 'Dandy' McLean evoking memories of another similar thumping of a greater Belgian name, Anderlecht, by the same score in Brussels in 1963.
I believe that no Scottish player has equalled this feat away from home but I' m sure someone will let me know!
By the time the semis came around Dundee found themselves in the exalted company of Leeds, Ferencvaros of Hungary and the then Italian cracks, Bologna. Dundee came out of the hat with Leeds, thus ruining the prospect of an all UK final.
Dundee thus had a chance to avenge the fates of both Hibs and Rangers who Leeds had knocked out in earlier rounds that year. Could Dundee go one step further and be the first Scottish club to reach the Fairs Cup Final.
Their barrier were the superb Leeds United team who had lost the previous year's final to Dinamo Zagreb and were determined to atone for this.
They were even more determined to win this trophy as they had tossed away the English double by losing to an ordinary Everton side in the FA Cup semis and losing three league games in a row at the end of the league season to let Manchester City in for the League title.
Dundee's gates had increased as they progressed in the tourney and for the Leeds game a healthy crowd of around 25,000 were in Dens Park with high hopes but respecting the reputation of a Leeds side that had earned the description of being 'unbeatable'.
I was a young eleven-year-old in the stand enclosure with my father who had witnessed the great nights of 1962-63 and was no doubt wishing for more! I was just in awe of seeing players in the flesh who to me graced the pages of 'Football Monthly' and 'Goal' magazines –remember them? Bremner, Charlton, Jones, Giles, Sprake, one could go on – all Internationalists and superb at their craft.
Dundee really had their hands full in this tie but still, hope reigns supreme with all football fans as far as their own team is concerned. I'll let Dundee's right back and Mr. Consistency, Bobby Wilson take up the story. Bobby is now manager at Ross County in Dingwall and remembers that season with great pride.
'We had great players at Dens and were confident against Leeds, although they had the best in Britain at that time. They took an early lead through Paul Madeley and while Ally Donaldson kept their attack, including big Jack Charlton at bay, the Dens support booed every time he came up for a corner! Jack was used to this but Ally rose to the occasion.'
Bobby recalled, 'Before half-time however we had drawn level and I had the distinction of grabbing the goal with a powerful header - it was a fantastic feeling and we had the whole of the second half to have a go at gaining a first leg lead. It was not to be and we faced the trip to Yorkshire having to beat Leeds on their own patch' - a fairly daunting task in these days - and nowadays as Rangers will find out soon!
Dundee took around 4000 fans to Elland Road for the second leg on 15 May 1968 and faced a Leeds line up of: Sprake, Reaney and Cooper; Bremner, Madeley and Hunter; Greenhoff, Lorimer, Jones, Giles and Gray.
Dundee had a late injury blow when poor Bobby Wilson himself had severe toothache and had to admit defeat to the pain and was replaced by Ronnie Selway, and had to watch from the stand.
Over 28,000 watched Dundee line up: Donaldson, Selway and Houston; Murray, Easton and Stewart; Campbell, J. McLean, S.Wilson, G. McLean, and Scott.
Dundee started brightly and looked the more likely to score in the first half as Bobby remembers, 'We were always confident in our own ability and while it was dreadful having to sit in the stand and watch the lads, especially with toothache, Ronnie Selway did a great job and I felt the boys could snatch a vital away goal. Billy Campbell tested Sprake with a shot he just got in the way of and as the game wore on we realised we would be out on away goals if it stayed at 0-0.' 'As we tried to push out of our own half from heavy second half Leeds pressure, they finally struck ten minutes from time when Scot Eddie Gray wheeled on a loose ball from a corner and lashed it into the roof of the net'.
'There was no way back and at the final whistle we just had to reflect on what might have been and take comfort in that we had just lost by the only goal to one of the finest sides in Europe – Leeds went on to beat Ferencvaros in the two-legged final by the only goal.'
Don Revie, the late and legendary Leeds boss said after the game that Dundee had been more impressive than Hibs or Rangers and were undoubtedly one of Scotland's top sides - a real compliment from a master.
Bobby had his chance for further glory at Dens and made up for the '68 League Cup defeat from Celtic by playing in the Dundee team who beat the Cels in 1973 at Hampden - laying on the goal for Gordon Wallace in fact - and enjoying more European nights against the likes of Cologne and A.C. Milan in 1972. He in fact scored the fourth and final goal that defeated Cologne and brought tears to the eyes of such notable Germans as Overath and Weber, who had scored against England in the World Cup Final of 1966.
Bobby still has a great passion for the game and Dundee in particular and it is refreshing to talk to someone who enthuses in football and especially memories of great times that I for once can remember!
Bobby has steered Ross County to two successive Highland League championships but his club will not be gracing Dens in the Scottish Cup this season as they went out two weeks ago to Cove Rangers with our own Ray Stephen grabbing two of the goals!
One of Bobby's sons is now a pro and the other is a Dundee fan so perhaps we will see two young Wilson's at the club again to remind us of one of the best players to wear the coveted Dark Blue!
Bobby. . . . . . Thanks for the Memory.