Who’d have thought Claudio Caniggia and Fabrizio Ravanelli would end up in Scotland playing for Dundee?
Graeme Strachan, who is currently responsible for some great reminiscing stories in The Courier and Evening Telegraph mainstream pages, has forwarded some terrific tales of audacious transfer pursuits to BwB.
Just over 40 years ago, the chances of famous Dutch international Johann Cruyff playing at Muirton Park, Perth, seemed very high.
Graeme said: “It emerged that First Division Dumbarton were in talks with the Dutch maestro, who masterminded Total Football, to bring the ‘Cruyff Turn’ to Boghead.
“His first three games would have been against Ayr United, Dunfermline and St Johnstone.
“Always keen for a local angle, The Evening Telegraph suggested Cruyff would be a star attraction for bringing down the 1980 curtain at Muirton Park against St Johnstone on December 27 – and his appearance might offset the Perth side’s £32,000 operating loss.
“The Sons were negotiating short-term assistance from Cruyff on a pay-as-you-play deal following a spell in the NASL in America with the Los Angeles Aztecs and the Washington Diplomats.
“Dumbarton were mid-table at the time in the First Division with 19 points from their first 20 games and the club had been hit by dwindling attendances at Boghead, which were sometimes below 1,000.”
Johan Cruyff, Dumbarton and bad investments
Graeme continued: “Dumbarton chairman Bob Robertson had struck up a connection with Cruyff’s agent at the time which was through a mutual relationship with a major engineering company.
“The three-time Ballon d’Or winner had always said he would retire aged 31, but returned to the game in 1978 after losing almost all of his money on a pig farming venture.
“Then Dumbarton manager Sean Fallon said before his death in 2013: ‘Cruyff was struggling financially in those days because he’d lost all his money in a bad investment, so we felt offering him a few thousand pounds per game might tempt him.
“We needed to boost the club’s image and show we were trying at Boghead, so I came up with the scheme to ask Cruyff if he’d sign for us. I flew to Amsterdam and met Johan, who politely listened to what I had to say’.”
However, it was not to be, as Graeme concluded: “Cruyff retired from the game just before the 1978 World Cup before returning to play in America.
“He asked for a few days to consider the £2,000 per game offer from Dumbarton before he made the inevitable decision to turn down a move to Scotland.
“When asked about the possible move to the Sons, Cruyff later said: ‘I was tempted. Of course I was. Playing in Britain was something I had always wanted to do. But I thought I was too old to go to Scotland, where you know the weather will be difficult.’”
Dundee FC fans, do you remember Alex Harley signing for the club?
He joined in November 1964 from Birmingham City.
It seemed to be a great signing by Bob Shankly as Harley – who Shankly originally signed when boss of Third Lanark – had a glowing reputation as a goalscorer.
He was top scorer in Scotland in the 1960-61 season with 45 goals for Third Lanark.
An £18,000 fee then took him to Manchester City and, in his first season at Maine Road, he netted 32 times.
His stock soared so much that Birmingham shelled out £41,000 for the centre-forward, but his goals dried up.
At Dundee, he lasted just around nine months with a meagre four-goal return from 10 games, and he left to join Irish side Portadown.
Sadly, he died just a few years later, aged 33.
DCT group sports editor Marc Deanie was keen to promote this and, on social media, remarked: “The response to the original BwB column about football in the Dundee housing scheme Charleston has been phenomenal.”
This prompted quite a number of other contributions.
Dundee-born politician and broadcaster George Galloway came back on to say: “There were two other fine players in Charleston with whom I played.
“Frankie Esposito was the first player I ever saw with Adidas boots when we were still in clodhoppers.
“He turned out for Dundee United. The other was George McKimmie, who joined Dunfermline.
“He was one of three brothers, along with Dave and Alan.”
‘Alex’, on Twitter, was keen to promote another area of Scotland, offering: “Not a patch on Glenbuck, though, who reputedly produced more professional players for its size than any other place in the world, over 50 in total.
“Not bad for a mining village that now exists in name only.
“Shanks’ (Bill Shankly) name will live forever.”
Another broadcaster Jim Spence, also rector of Dundee University, wanted a challenge closer to home and, in his own style, prompted: “Chateau au lait v Greater Lochee . . . what could go wrong?”
Football players, managers and staff are always sought for quotes by the media.
I’m continuing to share some of them with you.
The brilliant Charlie Cooke tells of his time playing at home for Scotland.
The former Aberdeen, Dundee and Chelsea wizard recalls: “At Hampden, before you know it, you are dashing about all over the place.
“You would never dream of playing like that for your club in England.
“If you did, you would never have been picked for Scotland.
“But the frenzy of the crowd gets to you.”
This Stobswell Secondary School U/15 team photo was taken in September 1972.
Back row (from left) – Colston, Watson, Murray, Traynor, Mackie, Haskett, Millar.
Front – Lorimer, Paul, Ford, Brown, Latto.