Jim McAlister would put pen to paper to sign for Dundee on the eve of the 2012-13 season and would stay with the club until the summer of 2015.
A Dens Park favourite with the fans, Jim McAlister hit the headlines a few times while at the club from delivering an RKO out of no where to having Nadir Cifti's teeth in his leg.
It would be his performances in the middle of the park though which would gain him the affections of the fans with his never say die attitude and work rate.
McAlister made 124 appearances, scoring thirteen goals for the Dark Blues in all competitions. He also captured a Championship winners medal while with the club as the team won promotion to the Premiership thanks to a 2-1 win over Dumbarton on the last day of the season at a packed Dens Park.
Your career started off with Morton, making your debut at the tender age of 17. What was it like to make your breakthrough so early?
It was probably a good club to start at because they were in the bottom league in Scotland, pushing for promotion. I came straight out of school and into the first-team so didn’t have time to think about it. It was sink or swim and thankfully I managed to make a few appearances between Christmas when I signed and the end of the season. I adapted to it well, I was tossed in at the deep end but had good pros around me to look after me. I started two games and came off the bench seven or eight times, and after wasting my time at school, I couldn’t have envisaged it turning out like it did.
In eight years, you made over 200 appearances and earned the nickname ‘Jimaldinho’ after the Ton fans compared some of your performances to Brazilian Ronaldinho. What were some of your best moments while at Cappielow?
First of all, I had to laugh when I was given that nickname. It was back in the day when I was left winger. Winning the league six months after joining was great, but I obviously didn’t play as bigger part as some. Then three years later the club was desperate to get promoted to the First Division and we managed to do that, and I played every minute of every game, so felt I’d played my part fully. We beat Kilmarnock when we were in Division Two in the Scottish Cup and also knocked out Gretna when they were in the SPL and I managed to score that day.
You were once invited have a trial with then Romanian Champions Unirea Urziceni after impressing their manager Dan Petrescu in a 3-1 defeat in pre-season. Instead you chose to head to Watford. How hard was it to turn them down and do you regret not going there as you could have been playing Champions League football?
It’s certainly one of my biggest regrets. I was talked out of it by my agent at the time, who thought it would be a better idea to go down to Watford for five days, which was an absolute waste of time. We played an amateur team and won 16-0 and I actually only trained for one day of the five. Ever since then I’ve not really had any trust in any agent, because if my memory served me right, the Romanian team’s Champions League group included Rangers, Sevilla and Stuttgart and they had nights which would have been an unbelievable experience.
You broke your foot against Queen of the South in January 2010 and then were released by Morton at the end of that season. How did it feel to leave Morton after being with them so long?
I feel I was at Morton two or three years longer than I should have been. I felt about around 2006 I was ready to step up to the next level but ended up staying another couple of seasons and ended up going a bit stale. Coming to the end of the 2010 season, there was another three-year deal on the table to stay but I felt it was the right time to try my hand in the SPL with Hamilton, but left Morton with great memories and nearly 300 games under my belt, which stood me in the stead for my future career.
You then spent two years with Hamilton before signing for Barry Smith’s ‘Club 12’ Dundee side. How did your move to Dens Park occur?
The move came about late in the day. There was only about three days to go until the new season and I heard of interest. When it was confirmed Dundee replaced Rangers in the SPL it was a no-brainer for me. I only signed on the Friday afternoon and met my new team mates at pre-match on the Saturday. I then started the first game at Kilmarnock having not trained with my new team, which was a bit bizarre, but we ended up getting a 0-0 draw and the longer the game went on, the more comfortable I felt. I had played with Barry at Morton so had a decent relationship with him already and knew the kind of guy he was, so that had a big factor in my decision.
We were invited to play in the Premier with only weeks until the start of the season. Was there a feeling that the team were unprepared for the step up?
If we’re honest, there probably was a feeling, but as a group of players we believed we were good enough to stay up. Once the club got the news they tried their best to recruit players suitable for the SPL and what probably killed us was the start to the season. If we’d have got off to a good start confidence would have grown and we could have built on it. However, from the start of the season we were always looking up at teams and came too far cut adrift, leaving ourselves with too much to do at the end of the season.
Barry Smith was relieved of his manager duties and then in a shock appointment, John Brown was named Dundee manager. This did not go down well with the fans who thought someone with a more proven track record should have been given the job. What was the reactions of the players?
The players were very surprised, it was a random appointment, but he got a good reaction from the players, they respected what he had done in his career and probably didn’t get the credit he deserved for his tactical awareness. People saw him as a manager who’d motivate players and get them fired up, but he changed our formation for the final two months and we gave it a right good go at staying up. We picked up some good results under Bomber.
Results surprisingly improved under Brown and even though we put up a late fight, we would be relegated. How hard was that to take?
It was extremely hard to take, especially when we started picking up positive results and we had the chance of pulling off a miracle. Looking at the table in January, you’d have thought we’d have been relegated by March, but the new manager came in and got a good reaction. In the end, we were unfortunate not to take it to the final game, we thought St Mirren had crumbled, it was just unfortunate we couldn’t keep on getting wins.
The next season seen new owners take over the club and Brown adding new players for our assault on the new look Championship. Was there a different vibe around the club?
I think the vibes were that everyone was desperate to get back to where we were, the lads had a taste of the SPL and wanted more. Bomber had recruited well, bringing in Gavin Rae, and he was experienced and installed as captain. We started the season well, there was a burning desire to get the club back to the SPL, especially with the new owners. It was a good time to be at the club, after the doom and gloom of the previous seasons.
In the middle of that season, we saw another managerial change at Dundee. John Brown left the club with Paul Hartley taking his spot. Did this change in personal shock the players?
It did shock us because if we weren’t top of the league we were second and close by, and the manager had been sacked. He had led us well over the first half of the season and nobody could see it coming. I don’t know if the board felt the players needed a new injection, and a change of manager was what needed to happen. Like every club, a new manager always gets a reaction out of the players and that happened then, they boys reacted well.
We would make an instant return to the Premiership but it proved to be a nervy finish. The league looked all but lost after defeat to Morton but the week after, Hamilton surprisingly lost while we went back top after a win at Alloa. Did you think the League was gone after Morton and what was the dressing room like after the Alloa match?
That summed up the season. One week we thought the league was won and then a result like Morton would happen and you’d think it was all lost. Then it was flipped the next week. I’ve never known a season like it for ups and downs, but our main aim was to have it in our own hands on the final day and Dumbarton did us a favour, beating Hamilton, and we did the job at Alloa, taking it to the final day of the season. Everyone was buzzing in the dressing room after Alloa because it was in our hands, but we had to stay calm because we still had a difficult game. It was going to be a sell-out crowd and, being part-time, we’d have been expected to win comfortably, but there was an element of calmness because nothing had been won.
We filled out all four sides of Dens Park for the last game of the season and the title was ours after a 2-1 win over Dumbarton. Hamilton tried their best to gate crash the party but we held out. Can you describe the feeling of that day and what it meant to win the Championship?
The feeling before the game was obviously nervy, walking out, seeing the place full. The atmosphere was unbelievable and big Christian scored early on to settle us down and the second goal followed quickly after. As the game went on Dumbarton got back into it with a penalty and we made a substitution with ten minutes to go and we thought a draw would win the league. The substitute told us Hamilton were winning 9-2, which meant if Dumbarton equalised and Hamilton scored again we’d lose the title, so the last ten minutes were the most nerve-wrecking experience I’ve had on the football field. To hear the final whistle and the pitch to be invaded by fans, it was the most incredible experience I’ve had in football.
On the team trip to Ibiza, some of the players were quite active on Twitter towards Hamilton. Namely Conroy and Boyle. What did you make of it?
I wasn’t actually in Ibiza with them, but was getting sent screenshots of the Tweets and I must admit, I did have a chuckle. The boys were off the back of a long, hard season where the pressure was on and they were clearly letting their hair down and having a good time. It was all done it good banter.
The next season in the Premiership, we found our feet pretty quickly, finishing in the top six. Was this the target set out by Hartley?
If I’m honest, I can’t remember the pre-season targets but it was probably to consolidate ourselves in the league and not become a yo-yo side. We needed to stay up and allow the club to build on it. When we got closer to the split we realised we had a chance to getting into the top six and luckily enough, we managed to get a few good results which meant we could enjoy the last five fixtures.
You famously RKO’d Gary Harkins, racking up over a million views on YouTube and even receiving a tweet from the main man Randy Orton himself. Who came up with this idea or did Harkins just deserve an RKO?
‘Jeebs’ probably deserves an RKO for his cheek sometimes. We used to travel to training together from Glasgow and it was trending all that week – folk doing RKOs out of nowhere online and we used to laugh at the videos each morning. We both agreed that if either of us scored at the weekend – and it was never going to be me – that they’d get RKOd. Never did we expect it to go as crazy as it did, it got us free tickets to the WWE when it came to Glasgow and we went backstage.
The fans were desperate for a win over United and after a few heavy defeats and near misses, we eventually got one over them with a 3-1 win at Dens. Was this a result the players were eager to give the fans?
I’d definitely say so. It was my third season and we still hadn’t beaten them, so if we were hurting as players, it must have been ten times worse for the fans. It was a great feeling afterwards, the noise the fans made that was tremendous and helped cheers us on to the victory.
In the last game of 2013/14, we faced off against Dundee United. We were soundly beaten by them but it was overshadowed by the actions of Nadir Ciftci who decided to bite your leg.
It was a bizarre. They were 2-0 up at the time and I think he was on hat-trick, so to do something like that was plain stupid. In my eyes, biting is up there with spitting, you don’t expect to see either in any walk of life, never mind the football field. Luckily with the Scottish FA, there was enough evidence and they saw sense to hand him a ban.
At the time, Dundee United defended their player in a statement and said ‘It is clear to us that the player has not been involved in any such incident’ and ‘We commend Nadir for his tolerance on the field given some quite severe physical and totally unacceptable verbal provocation.’
I don’t think it was the first time he’d been in bother on the football field, so I found it laughable, but not surprising, that Dundee United and his agent decided to have his back. They tried to paint him as being the victim and me as the guilty one, which was incredible, given the evidence that was available.
He was unsurprisingly found guilty and given a lengthy ban but how did this whole situation affect you?
I wouldn’t say it overly affected me, it just made me angry. Deep down, I knew what had happened, and him and his club were blatantly lying. I was pretty much left to deal with the situation, regarding the hearing at Hampden, myself, which probably made me angry too. A week after the season I didn’t hear another word from any officials at Dundee regarding the situation. When I went to Hampden it was basically me in the room, giving evidence myself, whereas he had three or four Celtic lawyers looking after him. It was quite intimidating, but as I knew I was telling the truth, it made it slightly easier.
There was also talk of lipstick being used. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s something that you don’t carry in your boot bag?
It was the funniest thing which came out of the whole situation. It was an utterly bizarre thing to come out with, I think the less said about it, the better, because it was cringe worthy.
That would be your last game for Dundee and you would leave under freedom of contract. The fans wanted you to stay but was there an offer of a new contract or were you not in Hartley’s plans?
Still to this day I’m waiting on the terms of the two-year deal Paul Hartley promised me two weeks before the end of the season. When we left for the summer I was told John Nelms would be in touch with the terms of contract, but I never heard another word from anybody at the club. I knew at the start of that season that most of the boys from the Championship-winning squad weren’t really wanted at the club, you could tell that with the way pre-season was going and so many new faces coming in – we were cast aside and I was fortunate I got a chance through Kevin Thompson getting injured, so I played most of the games that season. I had lots of ups and down at Dundee, but winning the Championship and finishing top six the following season were up there with the biggest achievements in my career and I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the club.
You would sign for Blackpool and nailed down starting place in the first team. Were there any other Scottish clubs interested or did you just fancy a change in scenery and a shot at playing in the English leagues?
I was in at St Johnstone for a few days because they were playing in Europe and one of their midfielders picked up a bad injury so there was an opportunity of something happening. When I heard I was going to have an opportunity to train with Blackpool for a week in Stirling, it was a no-brainer for me. I felt I needed a change, having played in Scotland for 13, 14 years. The change of scenery has done me the world of good and given me a new lease of life.
Switching the Dark Blue for Tangerine eh?
I prefer wearing the away kits because they’re blue, especially in my first season because it was dark blue.
You suffered a broken leg in February this year and missed out on being on the field as Blackpool marked their return to League One via the play-offs. How is the recovery coming along and how gutting was it to not be on the field when the team clinched their return to league One?
I was devastated to break my leg. I’d been fortunate enough to never get badly injured in my entire career, so it wasn’t easy to deal with. You’re still sitting on the sidelines, kicking every ball and around the lads on a day-to-day basis. When the boys got to Wembley I was obviously delighted, but a part of you is still gutted you’re not playing a part. When the final whistle went against Exeter I forgot about everything and joining in the celebrations with all the lads made me feel part of it – it was an amazing day. The recovery has been slow, but I’ve had some good progression over the last six weeks and now I can see a light at the end of the tunnel as I’ve started jogging. Hopefully I’ll be back kicking a ball sometime in October.
Despite the injury, how is Blackpool treating you and your family?
We love it down here. We stay on the outskirts of the town, in a quiet village, so made good friends which has helped us settle. I can be back up the road in a couple of hours which is ideal. We’ve had two kids since we’ve moved down here, so that keeps me busy when I’m not playing or training. I still get up to Scotland when I can so take games in and visit the family.
One of my favourite moments of you while playing for Dundee was your two injury time goals against Raith Rovers at Starks Park. Not counting winning the Championship, what moment stands out the most for you while with us?
There could a couple. In the first season, scoring in the Dundee derby at Dens was pretty special. Although we had been relegated, at the end of that season, to pick up various Player of the Year awards was special on a personal note. The two goals against Raith were great moments too, as they were at an important part of the season and late on in the game, and they seemed to kick us on for the second half of the season.
Lastly, how would you sum up your time at Dens Park?
It was a bit of a rollercoaster time. Going from getting relegated, to thinking we’d lost the Championship, to then winning it and going out on a high, securing a top six finish in the SPL. I thoroughly enjoyed my three years at Dundee and have great memories.
I’d like to thank you very much for taking the time out to answer these questions for the website and more importantly the Dundee fans. We would like to wish you the best with Blackpool