Remembering Hugh Ferguson, the FA Cup hero who took his life at Dens Park

A quick look at the Dundee history books brings a sad and stark reminder that the modern-day concern for the mental health of sportsmen has been a long time coming.

That’s because this week is the 88th anniversary of the tragic story of Cardiff City legend Hugh Ferguson who was found dead at Dens Park shortly after a big move to the Dark Blues.

Known as ‘Hughie’, Glaswegian Ferguson was a goalscoring machine at Motherwell between 1916 and 1925.

During that time he was the top scorer in Scotland on three occasions and netted an incredible 284 league goals in 288 games. His 362 goals in all competitions is still a club record.

Hugh Ferguson is pictured with the FA Cup after his goal for Cardiff proved good enough to beat Arsenal in the 1927 FA Cup Final.

His goalscoring exploits drew plenty of attention and saw Ferguson leave Fir Park for Wales, signing for Cardiff City in a £5,000 deal.

There he etched his name into Bluebirds history by scoring the winning goal in the 1927 FA Cup Final, a 1-0 win over Arsenal, which saw the famous trophy leave England for the first and, up till now, only time.

A back injury brought an end to his days in Wales with 77 goals to his name in 117 games and he headed back north to join Dundee for £500 in 1929 under manager Jimmy Bissett.

To say the move didn’t work out would be a gross understatement.

The players’ entrance at Dens Park.

He was a big-name signing and the expectation from a demanding Dens Park crowd became too much for the forward to handle.

After scoring two goals in two games against Kilmarnock and Queen’s Park, Ferguson endured a two-month goalless spell before being dropped from the team after a 3-0 home win over Hearts on December 14, 1929.

He was last seen alive on January 7, 1930, after a training session, telling his landlady that he was going to the pictures.

The following morning, however, a squad of painters found Ferguson’s body at Dens Park, having gassed himself in the main stand overnight.

The story is that Ferguson took his own life after persistent abuse from the stands and his loss of form but grandson Hugh suggested there was more to it.

Hugh Ferguson’s effort is fumbled by the goalkeeper and ends up in the back of the Arsenal net to give Cardiff victory in the 1927 FA Cup Final at Wembley.

Speaking back in 2008 before Cardiff’s FA Cup Final appearance against Portsmouth, he said: “My grandfather was suffering from an imbalance of his inner-ear by the time he came up to play for Dundee. There was something pressing down on his head and the family believed it was a brain tumour that was never diagnosed.

“The result was that he kept falling down on the park, which didn’t go down well with the Dundee fans. There was a bit of barracking as fans were wont to do in those days.

“He also suffered terribly from insomnia, so you can imagine how difficult things must have been for him.”

A desperately-sad end for a such a player but one that shows depression and mental health problems are certainly nothing new.

Multiple initiatives have sprung up in recent years in Scottish football to help recognise and combat mental health issues among players after an alarming PFA investigation into the state of the problem in the modern-day game.

That survey saw 64% of more than 600 responses from across the SPFL saying they or a team-mate had suffered a mental health issue.

The PFA have worked alongside organisations like Breathing Space, See Me and SAMH to provide support while the SPFL have also funded courses for people working in Scottish football to help with any problems.

Hopefully, with more and more work being done to highlight mental-health issues, tragic stories like Hugh Ferguson’s aren’t repeated.

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