With 408 appearances for the club, seventh in the all time appearance table and the club record for most clean sheets with a staggering 126, Ally Donaldson easily fits into the Dundee legend category.
Ally had two spells with the club, both combined spanned fourteen and a half years service, a rarity in this day and age. His first spell with the club started in 1961 to 1972 and his second from 1976 to 1980.
Ally was deservedly inducted into the Dundee Hall Of Fame in 2016.
You moved from Tynecastle Athletic to Dundee in the summer of 1961. How did your move come around?
I played for Tynecastle Athletic under age juveniles, under 17, in Edinburgh and trained in Tynecastle school next to Hearts ground. The underage juvenile league was a magnet for talent scouts, as all the best young players played in that league. I had played several senior trials including Dundee and was surprised when Bob Shankly appeared at my home and asked me to sign a provisional form for the club.
The next day the Hearts scout appeared at my home wanting my signature.
What was it like joining up with a Dundee team that at the time, consisted of players such as Cox, Cousin and Gilzean to name a few?
I was called up for season 1961/62 and moved up to Dundee to complete my electrical apprenticeship. I went into Dens every Tuesday for the normal practice match and trained on a Thursday night.
We famously clinched our first and only Scottish League Title in your first season with the club. You would still be some bit away from making your debut but what was it like to be around Dens while this was happening?
At the start of the League winning season Dundee signed Les Cameron from Arbroath FC as experienced back up for Pat Liney. Les and I shared goalkeeping duties in the reserves in what was to be a memorable season. Even playing against the first team was a tremendous experience and they did not always win.
I remember being at Muirton when Dundee clinched the league title and travelling back in the team coach to the reception at the City Chambers.
In my second season, Les Cameron was released and Dundee signed Bert Slater from Liverpool. Pat and I shared goalkeeping duties in the reserves and Pat was unfortunate not to get any game time in the European matches, and I thought this was wrong.
Your debut would happen in 1964 in the final match of season in the Summer Cup in 1964. The Dee won 5-1 against St Johnstone. Can you tell us how you found out you would be playing and what emotions you went through your head?
My debut was indeed the Summer Cup in 1964. I only realised I was to be playing when I saw my name at the top of the team sheet posted in the dressing room. Pat Liney was excellent for giving advice and encouragement but not Bert Slater who treated me like a deadly rival.
Of course I was excited and nervous prior to the game, but, once out on Dens Park, my concentration took over.
Your next start came in a 6-0 victory against Motherwell in 1964/65 in the last match of the League Cup section. Your first professional clean sheet must have been pretty special?
My next game was the 6-0 win over Motherwell in the League Cup, when several of the young player made their debuts. Alex Totten, John Philips, Jocky Scott and Phil Tinney all played.
Keeping my first clean sheet was special.
That season you would find yourself in the first team on forty occasions, displacing Bert Slater in goal. How did it feel to do lay your claim on the No.1 jersey in such a short space of time?
After his heroics in the Scottish Cup Final, Bert Slater had a dip in form and I was given my chance. I then played almost all of the games, missing out on the Cup defeat to St. Johnstone through injury.
You also got to sample the delights of European Football a few years later when Dundee played Real Zaragoza in the European Cup Winners Cup. We drew 2-2 at home in the 1st leg but we exited the competition after a 2-1 defeat in Spain. What was the whole experience like, traveling to play in another country in a major European competition despite the falling at the first hurdle?
Playing in the European Cup Winners Cup against Zaragoza was a great experience, and we would have won the tie but for several injuries for the home game to key players.
Playing in Zaragoza against several Spanish internationalists was a great experience. A 2-1 loss in Spain was not a bad outcome, the damage being done at home.
Even though you were the No.1 goalkeeper, John Arrol gave you healthy competition for the position in between the sticks. Was there a friendly rivalry there?
With Pat Liney leaving for St Mirren and Bert Slater moving south to Watford, new manager Bobby Ancell signed John Arrol from Clyde as my back up.
John and I did goalkeeping work together and there was friendly rivalry between us.
Arrol played in the 1967 League Cup Final against Celtic. Were you disappointed that you missed out or did you think he deserved his place in the final due to playing in all but the semi-final in the run up to this game?
I had played in the League Cup semi-final against St. Johnstone and the 2-0 defeat prior to the League Cup Final against Celtic, but was dropped for the final without being told. I was very disappointed and angry.
You did however play in the Fairs cup quarter finals and then the semi-finals. You came up against possibly the best Leeds United team ever and went toe to toe, narrowly missing out on the final. Naturally you all must have been disappointed but did you feel you should have reached the final?
I managed to regain my place and played in the return game against DWS Amsterdam, FC Zurich and Leeds United in the Fairs Cities Cup, and were unlucky to lose out in the Semi Final.
Your last game in your first spell at the club was in a 3-0 defeat away to AC Milan in the UEFA Cup. A dispute with John Prentice meant your time at Dens was up. Can you shed any light on what happened?
I was injured for the early rounds of the UEFA Cup. I played against Cologne twice and the first game against AC Milan, but was dropped for the second game at home.
My dispute was really with the club and not the manager, but I felt he was sympathetic to my claim.
At that time 10 years’ service was rewarded with a benefit payment of £750 less tax for first team players and £500 less tax for reserve team players, but was not compulsory.
Soon after John Prentice left and was replaced by Davie White.
At that time Mike Hewitt had taken my place and Thomson Allan was signed.
Falkirk was your next club but I believe you were all set to join the Police?
Dundee would not pay me anything so I threatened to join the Police. I had passed the entrance exam and was due to go to Police training college, when I received a phone call from a well-known journalist telling me Celtic wanted to sign me. I returned to training but the Celtic offer of £14,000 was rejected and Jock Stein then signed Dennis Connaghen from St Mirren.
I was transferred to Falkirk but as I still lived in the area, I started training with the (Dundee) part timers.
Davie White would bring you back to Dens in 1976. Did you have any hesitation in coming back?
I had no hesitation returning, as I was still living in the area.
I asked if I could train on my own at lunch times (at Dens Park) and after a while Hugh Robertson, George Blues and the coaches asked me if I would like some goalkeeping work. They obviously put a good word in for me to Davie White as he bought me back as back up for Thomson Allan as Mike Hewitt had left the club.
Following a poor spell, I managed to get back into the team and kept my place until I was injured. I missed several games but regained my place once I was fit.
After Winning the first Divison in 79/80, the following season would be your last with Dundee. I think this had to do with a fall-out with new manager Donal McKay after Tommy Gemmell had left the club?
Davie White was replaced by Tommy Gemmell and after a couple of seasons we won the First Division. After being relegated Tommy Gemmell was replaced by Don McKay. But I did not connect with him from day one because of his attitude to the senior players.
Following my testimonial match I took overs Hotel in Carnoustie and I could not agree a suitable compromise, so my Dundee career ended.
Before you left Dundee for the last time, you were awarded a testimonial against Dundee United. It’s not often players rack up enough years to be awarded one so this must have been a great feeling to be awarded your day after your time with the club?
I received a Testimonial game having been with the club for fourteen and a half years and playing over 400 league games. I also played a number of Forfarshire cup matches, Dewar Shield matches and various other matches eg Texaco Cup. As you say not many players are honoured in this way, Bobby Wilson was rewarded for his longevity, and I am sure there are more.
You sit proudly in seventh place of the all-time appearances for Dundee with an amazing 408 appearances and hold the club record of 126 clean sheets. A proud achievement no doubt, especially since your clean sheet record will remain a record for a very long time?
The modern contract system only allows for players to stay short periods of time at any club whereas in my era once you signed a contract you could be retained for evermore. All the club had to do was retain you once the contract expired on the same terms as you were on, and you could do nothing about it. It was modern slavery and the Bosman ruling changed that.
You played under Bob Shankly, Sammy Kean, Bobby Ancell, John Prentice, Davie White, Tommy Gemmell and Donald McKay. Who had the biggest influence on your career?
The biggest influences in my career was Bob Shankly for giving me my break and the help from coaches Robertson and Blues for the lunch time goalkeeping training, which made me a better goalkeeper in my second spell at Dens.
Your must have plenty of good memories but which ones stand out the most for yourself?
My outstanding memories were playing for my country twice at under 23 level and twice for the Scottish League, plus all the European matches and beating Celtic 5-1.
Over the years you have played with some of the best players Dundee have ever had. From Alan Cousin, Andy Penman to Jocky Scott. Which players did you enjoy playing with the most and which ones had an influence on your career?
Playing with great players like Alan Gilzean, Alex Hamilton, Andy Penman, Charlie Cooke, Jocky Scott, Gordon Wallace, Gordon Strachan and many more was a great pleasure.
Ally, I would like to say a massive thank you for taking the time out to answer these questions. It’s been an absolute pleasure to speak to someone who has such a rich history with the club and one who can say proudly they hold a club record. We wish you all the best!
MON THE DEE!
Edited by UWTB1893