For a lot of Dundee fans, Billy Dodds is the villain of the piece when it comes to the club’s 2010 administration, but no drama is ever as simple as that.
Dodds’ character arc in the Dark Blues’ soap opera is a convex and concave that wouldn’t look out of place in the most complicated of mathematical formulae.
If only it were as easy a story to unwrap as that, this article would be far shorter.
Alas, it is not.
Dodds’ Dee tale, as both player and coach, is a rollercoaster ride of missed chances, goals, relegation, triumphs, exits, returns and, for some, black marks.
And it all started in 1989 with the swoosh of a pen and a shake of Gordon Wallace’s deal-sealing hand.
Wallace helped launch Dodds’ career while Bobby Glennie’s mum kept feet firmly grounded
Following three years spent trying to break into the first team at Chelsea, a young Dodds headed north to kickstart his career.
The Ayrshire lad found himself in the City of Discovery, aged 20, starting his Scottish adventure with Dundee and their new boss Wallace.
The striker had a successful loan spell at Partick Thistle in 1987 and was confident of replicating that form with the Dark Blues.
Doddsy was delighted to be back in his homeland and remains grateful to former Dundee and Dundee United star Wallace to this day.
“Dundee really got me started as a senior pro,” the 52-year-old said.
“I’d done my apprenticeship at Chelsea and the manager, Ian Porterfield, was a pal of Gordon’s and he got me my move there.
“The Chelsea chairman at the time, Ken Bates, said he didn’t really want to let me go.
“He used to come and watch all the youth games because he was a shrewd businessman.
“There was a 50% sell-on clause in my contract because he thought I’d move on to bigger and better things.
“I needed to play first-team football so they agreed to that and a £50,000 fee.
“It helped me get to where I needed to be. I was probably between reserve and first-team football.
“I was never going to get in the Chelsea team with David Speedie and Kerry Dixon there.
“I made a couple of appearances, my debut when I was 16 or 17, but it was time for me to try to get experience and show people what I could do.”
Now a coach in his own right, currently acting as a No 2 to interim Inverness boss Neil McCann, Dodds has taken a lot from the likes of Wallace.
Humble at the best of times, Dodds believes his grounding in football came from his time spent in the city, at both Dundee and Dundee United, under the auspices of club legends – and Bobby Glennie’s mum.
The BBC pundit continued: “I was lucky because I came through with top coaches – Gordon Wallace, Paul Sturrock signed me twice, Paul Hegarty, John Blackley – people who were well-respected in the game.
“They were really good coaches and I’ve taken so much from them.
“With Gordon and Paul being ex-strikers, it suited me down to the ground.
“It taught me a lot about the game, and I take bits off everybody, but they were great and really drilled things into me.
“I had to grow up quickly because, 20-year-old me, a lot of people tried to bully me.
“The one thing I had was good protection around me because if it all kicked off then boys like Alan Dinnie, Stevie Pittman and Rab Shannon could handle themselves!
“I stayed with Bobby Glennie’s mum in digs when I first went to Dundee – old Florie Glennie.
“She looked after me in Lochee so I had a good grounding.
“I’m an Ayrshire boy, my dad was a miner, I didn’t mind the old hard work.
“There were no airs or graces about me, it was: ‘This is what I am, this is where I come from and it’ll stand me in good stead’.
“It was old school football where you had to take a few slaps and a few tackles. It was good for me, it’s all part of it.”
Despite a false start, Doddsy soon got up and running
Dodds, who would score 95 goals in 177 appearances in dark blue from 1989-94, didn’t get off to the best of starts at Dens Park.
His debut at Dunfermline was a calamity, in a season that would see the Dee relegated from the old Premier Divison.
Despite early struggles, the former Scotland man would score 13 goals in 31 games and, eventually, settle in a team moulded in Wallace’s image.
“I loved my time there and we had a really good team, better than folk gave us credit for,” he asserted
“We had established pros like Dinnie, Pittman, Dusan Vrt’o was there – it was really good solid boys.
“There was a real team spirit. People didn’t like playing against us because we were a hard team to beat.
“We worked hard and we could handle ourselves as well.
“It was a great grounding for me. It never all went swimmingly, mind.
“For my first game, we were playing Dunfermline and I was in the team, but I got lost on the way to the ground and turned up half an hour late.
“I came on and missed a sitter. I was gutted.
“Gordon Wallace kept me out of the team for the next month to punish me! He’s like a dad to me now and it served me well.
“I would do the same now I’m in coaching but it was nobody’s fault really in the days before sat-navs!
“When I got my first-team debut from the start a month later, against St Mirren, I never looked back after I scored an overhead kick.
“Not that I remember everything about my career but you always remember the start!
“Once I got that goal, that was me off and running.”
Two seasons in the old First Division would follow, yielding the Challenge Cup (known then as the B&Q Cup) and the title in 1992, and with it promotion back to the top flight.
It was then, in a championship-winning campaign that saw four managers at the Dee helm – Wallace, caretaker Blackley, Iain Munro and player-boss Simon Stainrod – that Dodds really began to feel like a bona fide first-team pro.
“It was competitive that year, the old First Division,” the former Rangers and Scotland man added.
“We’d signed a couple of strikers, Eddie Gallagher scored his fair share, but I played most of the games.
“It was great to win the championship on the back of the B&Q Cup in 1990.
“I scored a hat-trick in that final. Keith Wright was great for me because he took all the hits!
“Even the last goal that won it, he smashed into the goalie and took a sore one and I just tapped it into an empty net to all the glory.
“Big Keith was a brilliant foil for me.
“There were big crowds then in the First Division. Behind the goal at Dens I remember it being filled with Kilmarnock fans, Partick Thistle fans.
“We managed to win it, it was hard fought, but that was a couple of honours and you start to pick up experience through the years.
“Getting promoted was great, to see us back in the Premier Division, but it was hard.”
A series of unfortunate events led to jinx tag
His final two seasons on Sandeman Street would be tougher, despite the return of top-flight football.
While Dodds was still scoring, Dundee were struggling under player-manager Jim Duffy, pitched in after the colourful and unsuccessful stewardship of Stainrod.
Relegation would follow in 1994 but not before Dodds moved on to pastures new with the Perth Saints.
“That was one of the two times Paul Sturrock signed me,” he explained.
“St Johnstone was funny because I went from winning a couple of things with Dundee to then hitting rock bottom once we got promoted.
“Jim was the manager, and I still get on well with Duff now and I totally understand why he changed it, taking me out.
“I wasn’t playing my best football, finding it hard to score goals but the Dundee fans were gutted when I was sold.
“We were already relegated and there was a chance to get some money for me and I wasn’t getting many chances in a team that weren’t playing well.
“Duff knew Dundee were down so he signed Geordie Shaw and Gerry Britton to change it up and try to get them going, while I went with Grant McMartin to St Johnstone.
“Then, for about a year, I became known as the jinx because Saints got relegated as well, by one goal, so that was two teams down in a season!
“It was part of learning again but it was good because it got me going and playing again. I scored a few goals in that spell at St Johnstone.
“I only stayed there for six months because Aberdeen bought me when my form picked up.
“Then, within even less than 12 months, Aberdeen get into relegation trouble! It was everywhere I went, I nearly put three teams down in a year!
“You’ve got to take the bad with the good.”
Dodds admits he cares about the Dee support’s perception of him as he lifts the lid on ‘horrible’ time amid 2010 administration woes
That wisdom is certainly earned with Dodds, who would take the rough with the smooth in his time associated with Dundee.
Latterly, the going was coarse rather than silky when he returned as assistant boss to Gordon Chisholm in 2010.
On the park, it wasn’t an awful season, with Dodds and Chisholm joining in the March of 2009/10 following the sacking of Jocky Scott – who had Dundee top of the First Division and with another Challenge Cup in the trophy cabinet.
The Dee would conspire to finish second, losing out on the title to Inverness, much to the bemusement of the support.
If they thought that was bad, things were about to get much worse off the pitch as Dundee entered one of the bleakest period in the club’s 128-year history.
Financial mismanagement left the Dee teetering on the brink, in administration and hit with a 25-point deduction in the November of 2010/11.
Administrators made Dodds and Chisholm redundant as they left the club a few months into the campaign with Barry Smith taking over.
It would come to be known as “the Dee-fiant season” as the Dark Blues rallied from dead bottom to stave off the dual threat of relegation and liquidation under Smith.
In 2011, however, the drama ramped up as Dodds and Chisholm, rejected CVA (Company Voluntary Agreement) proposals designed to help lift the club out of the financial mire.
A section of the Dundee support still resent the duo and blame Dodds and Chisholm for not agreeing to the CVA. They remain under a cloud until this day.
However, in defence of his actions, Dodds took the Dens money men to task insisting the deal they were offered conflicted with his principles.
“I don’t think the Dundee fans will ever like me again but, to be honest with you, I’m a decent person and I do care,” he said.
“I would still do the same again with what went on at that club.
“I know who the other guys, the bad guys, were and it certainly wasn’t Gordon Chisholm or I.
“They put us in such a predicament. People can look at us and say: ‘You knew what was happening behind the scenes’.
“I was brought up with good morals, and my mum and dad, wouldn’t tell me just to accept things because it’s what other people think is the right, or easy, thing to do.
“It was like: ‘You’re getting six pence in the pound, just accept it and don’t cause any hassle or disharmony’.
“It wasn’t just the money, it was the principles of it.
“These two guys disappear and then we get hit. I thought: ‘Naw, that’s not right’.
“I’ve said this on record before, I knew the club would be fine.
“At the time, these two bad guys who tried to leave one another with the club at one point had disappeared and left us with it.
“Nobody, Dundee fans included, knew what Gordon Chisholm and I had to go through then.
“We had to try to keep players happy and get a team out on the park.
“All the boys were worried about was getting paid. You weren’t going to get the best performances out of them.
“They were worried about paying their mortgages and all that – and I totally understand.
“Are we going to best out of them? Absolutely not. Did we handle the boys well? Ask any of them and we did.
“Some people might tell you different but it’s just not true.”
It was at this juncture that Doddsy would, for some, quickly go from Dundee hero to villain.
It’s a narrative the former striker has never subscribed to, believing a portion of the Dens support remain amicable towards him.
He, certainly, has no ill-feeling towards the Dee.
He continued: “When I went to Dundee United, I scored so many goals against Dundee and never once disrespected the fans.
“I was never the old ‘get it up ye’ or anything like that.
“I never over-celebrated. I celebrated my goals and that was it.
“Although the administration hadn’t happened then, I just knew that they had done a lot for me so there’s no animosity from me towards Dundee fans.
“A lot of Dundee fans still say: ‘Doddsy, don’t worry about it, the keyboard warriors, we still like you’.
“There’s a good chunk of the support that’ll never take to me again but that’s fine by me, I’m a big boy.
“It’s too easy for things to be black and white and fans just judge you.
“If they think I’m a horror and I tried to kill their club then they don’t know me.
“They don’t want to listen to the real reason behind it. I’ll never change their mind and that’s fine.
“I think people thought just because we had a bit of money we’d just accept it.
“That was the easy thing to do but it wasn’t the right thing to do in principle.
“The ones who had promised myself and the club money weren’t putting the cash in.
“They tried to leave one another with all the troubles but sailed off into the sunset and left Gordon and I, and CEO at the time Harry MacLean, to pick up the pieces.
“I’ve talked about learning the game, football-wise, but that learns you the business side.
“It’s horrible. Horrible for Harry, for Gordon and I, the players and the fans.
“It was incredible what we had to go through but it was a great learning curve.”
No return under Jim McIntyre; so what now for Dundee and Billy Dodds?
In 2018, Dodds was afforded another opportunity to re-join Dundee, this time as No 2 to new boss Jim McIntyre.
For all intents and purposes, he was a signed, sealed and delivered Dee again but, at the last minute, Dodds pulled the plug on the deal.
For him, it was a case of avoiding history getting in the way of the club’s ultimately-unsuccessful battle against Premiership relegation.
“It was disappointing, of course it was, for my working relationships,” he said.
“I can understand the way they felt but it was just never going to work.
“It was probably a bullet dodged, for me, in terms of what happened.
“It never went well. They got relegated and if I had been there I think fans would’ve gone mental and started to blame me.
“It was disappointing but it was something I was willing to do.
“I was down there and had practically signed my contract, I was in the Dundee tracksuit and ready to go to training.
“Then I walked out for Jim’s sake and John Nelms’ sake and said to them: ‘Listen, this is not about me, this is about doing the right thing for you to see if you can sort it’.
“I would’ve given my heart and soul to them with hard work and graft but it wasn’t to be.
“There’s worse things happening in the world isn’t there?”
Would Dundee have stayed up in 2019 had the one-time Dee hero been able to come in and work his magic? It’s hard to say.
One thing that’s for certain, though, is, for Billy Dodds, there are no hard feelings, only an episode he is keen to put to bed, once and for all.