FLASHBACK: Wilkie’s mixed memories of Dundee’s big day against Caley

Dundee's Lee Wilkie (right) standes dejected after being shown a yellow card by referee Douglas McDonald against Inverness in the Scottish Cup semi-final

Joy and pain are part of football, any pro will tell you that — but they don’t often come within minutes of each other.

They once did for the Tele’s Lee Wilkie, and this weekend’s Scottish Cup clash between Dundee and Inverness Caley Thistle has seen the memories of when that happened come flooding back.

Saturday’s Dens Park tie will be the first time the pair have clashed since the Dark Blues triumphed over the Highlanders in a dramatic semi-final at Hampden back in 2003.

And for big Lee, it was a day when he was put through a whole gambit of emotions — and more than once.

With fans displaying banners to celebrate his 23rd birthday and Dundee heading for victory thanks to a Georgi Nemsadze strike, he was yellow-carded for a challenge on Barry Robson, a player who’d become a good friend during their time together later at Dundee United.

Having been booked against Partick Thistle in an earlier round, his immediate reaction was he’d miss the final through suspension and, although SFA officials initially told him that wasn’t so, it proved to be a case of first impressions being right.

As he recalls, though, the confusion only added to his pain on what should have been one of the best days in his career.

“I’d been told before the game I was on a booking and I remembered picking it up when we won through at Partick, so, as far as I was concerned, when I got the yellow card that was me out of the final,” he said.

“I knew it as soon as I saw the card and it was hard to cope with. For a start, it was one of those where Barry has pushed the ball past me and I just couldn’t get out of his way.

“I remember it clearly to this day and I didn’t make a movement towards him and, even if the referee was giving a foul, it should never have been a booking.

“Knowing that was me out of the final was hard to deal with and there was still a game to be won and I had to concentrate on that.

“That in itself wasn’t easy and neither was the fact at the time we were so in control of the game that I knew we were going to go on and win.

“It wasn’t like I felt we were under pressure and the booking was the difference between us hanging on and them equalising.”

Things would only get worse for Lee after the final whistle when he was told SFA records showed that was his only cup booking that season and he would be OK to face Rangers in the final the following month.

“It was what I wanted to hear but, when the SFA official told me I was available for the final, I did have a nagging doubt he was talking nonsense.

“About half-an-hour later I was told he was and they had found my booking against Partick, so I was out.

“I should add when they thought they had good news to tell me it was the SFA who turned up themselves but, when it was bad, they left it to Dundee to pass on the news!”

This weekend, Lee is due to be on duty with Lochee United, where he’s assistant manager, but he’ll be paying close attention to news from Dens.

“I’m hoping Dundee, and United for that matter, both come through their ties and I think they should.

“For Dundee, home advantage should be a big plus but they can’t be taking Inverness lightly because they are a decent team.

“They’ve been playing well recently and will be confident.

“Dundee are in their first game after the winter break and, while that means there will be a freshness about them, there’s also the danger of a touch of rustiness after three weeks without a game.”