They may have been small but the celebration hit big in the hearts of Dundee supporters as the young team of 1995 made their mark at Tannadice.
Jim Duffy’s Dens Park young guns were full of confidence as they prepared for a first major cup final appearance in 15 years.
First of all was a derby, however, and fans’ favourite George Shaw was the leader of the dark blue dancers as he headed in the opener in a 3-2 win at fierce rivals United.
Winning the player of the year trophy two years running, the only player to hold that accolade, Shaw enjoyed his time at Dens immensely, even if he admits the quality of player in the team didn’t translate into the success it deserved.
“We did the dance because me and Terry (Neil McCann) were so small, we decided we had to do something,” Shaw told Tele Sport.
“We were really confident we’d win that game and we practised it that week.
“Neil Duffy was a big, strong guy and he joined in but we’d been rehearsing our moves all week. People still remember it.
“I watched the derby on the BBC during lockdown and to hear the fans at that one was great.
“Good to see the game again. Some players back then, Tosher (Paul Tosh) on one side was quick and then McCann on the other side, me and Hammy (Jim Hamilton) up front with Morten Wieghorst, too.
“I scored twice and we won 3-2, having to hang on a bit at the end.
“Getting back to Dens on the Monday, we parked the car up and there were a bunch of fans still around – one guy, I’ll never forget, said I gave him the best weekend of his life and he hadn’t been home since.”
He added: “I remember having a good team back then, really good players at Dundee. We probably didn’t know how good a team we had at the time, to be honest.
“You look now at some of the names in that team and you wonder how we went down that first season and then couldn’t get back up.
“We should’ve won promotion but I have some great memories of that time. Beating United at Tannadice, getting to the cup final a week later and then the semi-final the year after, great times looking back.”
After coming through the ranks at St Mirren, Shaw was a fans’ favourite at Love Street and then during his time at Partick after scoring goals in memorable wins over Celtic for both.
In January 1994, Billy Dodds had moved on from Dundee and boss Duffy needed a replacement.
He was looking no further than former Jags team-mate Shaw, along with Gerry Britton, to score the goals that could keep the struggling Dee up.
Unfortunately for the Dark Blues and Duffy, Shaw’s final goal for Partick was a winner at Parkhead.
Shaw added: “Dundee were near the bottom of the league when I arrived. They had just sold Billy Dodds to St Johnstone and Duff wanted me to replace him.
“We had played together at Partick and he knew exactly what he was getting from me.
“Then we were playing Celtic on the Saturday and I scored in a 1-0 win – the next day Duff was complaining I’d added £50,000 to the asking price!
“I made my debut at home to Aberdeen then got my first goal against Raith Rovers. From there we went on a bit of a run.
“We lost out at the end of the season, getting relegated, but we had some really good players, it was such a pity.
“You look at some of the names and characters like Neil McCann, Morten Wieghorst, Ray Farningham, Alan Dinnie and guys like big Noel Blake arriving.
“We tried to get back up again but then Duff left and ‘Cowboy’ came in. We just couldn’t get that promotion.”
On the park, Shaw was finding the goal trail, scoring eight times in the top flight after arriving midway through the campaign and then 20 the following season in the First Division.
The Dark Blues missed out on promotion by just one point with Raith heading up.
Then came the League Cup final in 1995-96, though league form suffered that season and Dundee finished fifth and then third the following campaign with another cup run to the semi-finals to enjoy.
Shaw would leave for Premier Division Dunfermline but the disappointment of missing out on promotion for the frontman is far outweighed by the good times he had as a player at Dens.
“I ended up on eight goals in the first season, top scorer, and then hit 20 the next season,” he said.
“I think I scored 45 times in total for the club and scored more goals for Dundee than anyone else in my career. It was an enjoyable time.
“There was a really good spirit in the dressing room. Some holidays, too, that I really can’t mention what went on.
“Turning up early to Edinburgh Airport and having a few drinks before our flight saw me almost left behind when Ray Farningham got on the plane with my passport in his hand.
“Then Cowboy managed to lock Duff in his hotel room in the early hours when we arrived. There was all sorts going on.
“Everybody connected with the club were together. I remember the wee woman at the club who would have a cup of tea ready for the players, and then the groundsman Brian, who is still there and I speak to whenever I’m at Dens.”
And the run to the final in November 1995 is one that really sticks out.
After scoring in a third-round win over top flight Kilmarnock, Shaw would strike twice in an epic quarter-final against Hearts at Dens that finished 4-4 and went to penalties.
“Hearts had a really strong team then, John Colquhoun and John Robertson in there. Dens was packed, they brought a big support and the atmosphere was cracking,” Shaw recalled.
“I scored twice and we were cruising but let in a stupid goal right at the death to take us to extra time. Big Morten sorted us out, though.
“The scenes after that were something else and it meant more to me because my twins were there, they’d have been about two back then. They came out on the pitch and we walked around, it was great.
“Losing the cup final the week later was a hard one to take, though.
“Not many people will know but wee McCann shouldn’t have played that game. He’d pulled his thigh before the game but he was desperate to play.
“He couldn’t run full pelt and he was rapid usually, so had to come off a bit early.
“The atmosphere at Hampden and the support there was incredible. It was full up because it had been a while since Dundee were at a major cup final.
“We knew we had something at Dundee back then but there was a lot of young guys and it was difficult to be consistent.
“There was me, McCann, Hammy, good young players and wee Jack Ross was there, too – now Hibs boss. He used to clean the boots.”
This season, youngsters may well get their chance in dark blue again under boss James McPake with budgets tight.
It’s expected Dundee, and a lot of the Championship clubs, will operate with small squads.
“The Championship is a hard league but I hope Dundee come up,” Shaw added.
“There are a lot of good teams, though, and it will be an interesting season when it kicks off.
“I wish Dundee all the best this season.”