Les Barr isn’t one for smiling in pictures.
When he signed for boyhood heroes Dundee in 1978, however, it was an altogether different story. And one he was keen to tell the Tele.
Grinning from ear to ear, 41 years ago a fresh-faced 25-year-old Barr signed on at Dens Park in a part-exchange deal from Montrose which saw Bobby Ford go the other way.
The right-back, who started his career in 1971 with Stobswell Juniors, made a name for himself over seven initial years at Links Park as a terrific attacking full-back – scoring 63 goals in over 200 appearances.
He would go back to the Gable Endies for seven more years to see out his playing career in 1982 but, in the intermittent period, the now 66-year-old became a Dark Blues favourite.
Making 129 appearances and scoring once, in a 4-2 Division One win over Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park in the September of his first campaign, Barr saw a lot of ups and downs at the club.
Led by manager Tommy Gemmell, Dundee won the league that season in 1979, experienced relegation from the Premier Division the next term before Gemmell departed and 1981 saw promotion again achieved. Barr then made his exit in 1982.
Speaking with real fondness, he said: “They were great times, fantastic. I remember when I first signed from Montrose, Tommy Gemmell said ‘you have to go up’ and right enough we did.
“My first game was against Ayr United and the crowd and the pressure was immense but I loved it. Some of the players were phenomenal. Wee Jimmy Murphy was a great winger, Alan Lamb was a talented player.
“Even the guys we were up against like Mark ‘Dingus’ McGhee were top players.
“We got relegated the next year but the hardest bit of it all was coming up again in 1981 as that old Division One was a very hard league.
“You don’t get allowed to play the football you are accustomed to in the Premier Division.
“You have got to keep players for a long period to do well in that league.
“Tommy Gemmell always said ‘you won’t get many teams who play football, you need to work.’
“Football was different then, though, you played three up front and players stuck around forever. Clubs don’t have that now.
“Keeping possession is so important now, we never played like that. It was attack first and not giving up.
“It’s a team game and we got credit as a team and criticism, too.”
Despite being a dyed-in-the wool Dee, Barr is quick to recognise the quality Jim McLean’s Dundee United side possessed during that period.
He enjoyed many a derby tussle against the Tangerines, none more so than the 1980 League Cup Final, where the Terrors came out on top 3-0 in a huge match at Dens Park (see below).
Barr believes Dundee derbies benefit the city in many ways and is looking forward to their return in the Championship next term.
He added: “They were great players. Dundee United had strength in depth, too, when players were injured they brought the same sort in.
“Paul Hegarty was brilliant and Dave Narey, too.
“The derbies give the whole city a lift. Not only that, it’s the financial side of it as well.
“It was a great era to play in.”
Barr: Dodds shut me up in derby final
As a diehard Dundee supporter, former right-back and fans’ favourite Les Barr believes there is no feeling quite like pulling on the dark blue jersey and trooping out at Dens Park.
And he got to do exactly that in the biggest occasion of all – a Dundee derby. In the 1980 League Cup Final at that.
Unfortunately for the 66-year-old, the Dee lost out 3-0 to the Terrors thanks to a Davie Dodds header and Paul Sturrock brace.
And Barr has revealed in his exclusive interview with the Tele, Dodds truly had the last laugh after some taunting from Dark Blues in the South Enclosure and Barr himself.
“We played them at Dens Park in the League Cup Final in 1980 and the fans were chanting at Davie Dodds,” he said.
“I was marking him and saying ‘how do you like that?’
“Next thing I know he’s peeling away to back post to head home the opener, he went off and celebrated then came back and tapped me on the shoulder as if to say ‘that’s how I like it’.
“We had some laughs, too, though. I spoke to Davie, Paul Hegarty and all those guys recently and they had some team.
“It was Dundee United who were the experienced side in the 1980s. The amount of players they used in the 1983 title team was very small and it shows the strength and quality they had.”
‘Dees and Arabs both brilliant’
Dundee hero Les Barr has praised fans of both city clubs for their support of their teams in recent times and back when he was a player.
Barr starred at right-back for the Dark Blues from 1978 to 1982 and has fond memories of the way he was adored by his fellow-Dees.
They have had to endure some lean times of late, unlike the relatively successful days Barr and his team-mates enjoyed.
However, he believes all they and Dundee United fans want is 100% effort.
Barr said: “The fans are brilliant at Dundee. I was speaking to some guys recently and all they want to see is the team working hard.
“They felt some players didn’t care for the club, last season particularly.
“They are on loan or out of contract at the end of the season and the club didn’t seem to matter to them.
“These are the times we live in, though. Unfortunately, football is more of a business now. The fans of both clubs have been brilliant. They have always been great with me, both Dees and Arabs.”