An exceptional striker and a lovely man who was never changed by stardom.
That’s how Dundee legend Alan Gilzean is described by fellow Dens Park great and championship winning team-mate Bob Seith.
Gilzean died on Sunday at the age of 79, less than a month after it was revealed he was battling a brain tumour.
It was a sad day for Seith, one of four surviving members of the Dark Blues greatest-ever side, but he was able to recall the many happy memories of his friend and colleague.
“It’s sad news and my thoughts are with Alan’s family,” he said.
“I was just thinking about him the other day and wondering how he was, so it’s sad to hear of his passing.”
Recalling their time together, what Seith highlighted first was Gilzean’s superstar status on the park was matched by being a class act off it.
“Alan was an exceptional striker for Dundee and Tottenham, but that never changed him. He was always the same nice lad.
“I think that was one of the strengths of the Dundee team that won the championship – we were all good friends. There were no cliques in the dressing-room and none of us let our success go to our heads.
“I remember when Alan was at Spurs and I was manager at Hearts, we played them in a friendly. He was a big star, but he was exactly the same as he was when we were at Dens.”
“Gillie” scored a club record 169 goals in 190 appearances in dark blue and, after leaving for London in 1964, went on to earn similar legendary status at White Hart Lane, where he formed lethal striking partnerships with Jimmy Greaves and Martin Chivers. None of that came as a surprise to Seith, who rates him as one of the best ever.
He said: “Alan was exceptional and a great header of the ball. His timing in the air was the thing and when he jumped he seemed to hang in the air. We knew that if we could get the ball to his head he would score goals.
“At Dundee he had a fine partnership with Alan Cousin and he would have been the first to say Alan Cousin’s donkey work was responsible for him scoring as many goals as he did.
“With Alan, though, it was not just about his heading, he had two very good feet as well. In fact, I was never sure whether he was left or right-footed.
“He had the knack of being in the right place at the right time. He always seems to know where to be, that’s why he scored so many goals.”
Former Dundee director and long-time friend, Dave Forbes, also paid tribute. Organiser of a number of events down the years to honour the 1961/62 team, he knew Gillie well.
He said: “I knew he wasn’t well and I’m just glad it all seems to have been quite quick and he didn’t suffer for too long.”
Particularly after spending 10 years in the limelight at Spurs, where he was dubbed the King of White Hart Lane, Gilzean was famous for valuing his privacy.
For a long time after he retired, the native of Coupar Angus did not make many public appearances but, over the past decade or so, was a familiar figure at White Hart Lane on match days and made regular visits back to Dundee.
“Gillie was a private man, but he was a gentleman.
“I remember when we were organising Dundee’s centenary celebrations he was a big help,” added Forbes.
“I am proud, honoured and privileged to have known him as a good friend.”