When the going gets tough, the tough get going. While it’s a cliché to the point of being the title of a Billy Ocean song it is absolutely appropriate when describing Dundee Football Club and its magnificent support in times of crisis. Upon falling into administration for the second time in seven years it was left to those who had little or absolutely nothing to do with causing the problem to take the full weight of financial disaster’s brutal body blow. Wounded, the club reeled back against the ropes of Scottish football.
The situation was bleak. Funds had to be raised, and quickly, or the doors would shut forever. The administrator announced in no uncertain terms that it was very much a case of do-or-die. Those who cared instinctively rallied and began doing what they had to do to survive. Money started pouring in from ordinary punters and local business alike as the fundraising began in earnest.
The people of Dundee would not see their team go quietly. With over a hundred years of history the club was a vital part of the City of Discovery. For it to cease to exist would be much akin to opening the Sunday Post to find Oor Wullie had kicked the bucket he once sat on, leaving Jeemy the mouse distraught and wondering if he could sneak across the page to live with The Broons.
Just as we attempted to steady ourselves the knockout punch was delivered. The SFL committee designated with the task of meting out punishment to the club for slipping into administration mid-season unleashed a brutal upper-cut in the form of a 25 point penalty deduction that left us crumpled on the canvas with the beginning of the ten-count ringing in our ears.
I’d become a bit of a reader in my time at Dens. Having learnt much about the Art of War I’d started devouring Jocky’s book collection. To be honest I couldn’t grasp the deep philosophical thought of Nietzsche and the likes, and other than Jocky’s own Biro-added touches – “To get them telt, or no’ tae get them telt: Wha’s in fuckin’ cherge here?” – I wasn’t much of a Shakespeare fan.
My favourite piece of writing was by a man called Dylan Thomas. One particular passage held a great beauty and power, striking a chord when it came to thinking of Dundee’s plight.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
In the midst of all the off-field activity the players had fed off the never-say-die attitude coming from the stands and started putting vital points on the board. When Partick Thistle came to Dens for the first game since the 25 point deduction there was an air of “us against them” all around the ground. When we scored a last-gasp winner the place erupted like we’d won the league itself, sending every man, woman and child in Dens with Dundee in their heart wild with delight.
Defiance and pride poured out of Dens Park at the final whistle. The fight would go to the last man standing, and we were ready for it. The rage against the dying of the light pulsed from the heart of the club out across the city and beyond.
‘FUUUCCKKINGGGG YAAAAAAAAAASSS!!! OH YA CUNT, LEIGH! DID YI’ SEE THE DERRY WHEN THAT WINNER WENT IN? OOFT!’
I arrived at Jocky’s house later on in the night of the Thistle game to find a party in full swing. It might have only been a mid-season win against Partick but it felt like so much more given the circumstances.
‘Eh wiz watchin’ fae the roof o’ the Main Stand. The auld jetpack fair comes in handy fur gettin’ a sneaky peek at the gemme once the coppers turf yi’ oot.’
Without the faintest hint of surprise I asked why he’d been ejected.
‘Hud a big flag wi’ iz. Mind Ian McColl shat in Stainrod’s shoe? Eh wiz on the revenge mission. The flag says “BIG JOCKY SHAT IN IAN MCCOLL’S MOOTH”, which tells yi’ a’ yi’ need tae ken aboot that gig. Anyway, the copper’s didnae like it and eh didnae like their disregard fur Simon’s crocodile skin loafers, so that wiz me oot.’
It was a weird scene at the party. Various Fairmuir regulars danced with eyes-bulging and arms-flailing to an old ’60s number that seemed to tell the story of Alice and Wonderland, and a light show transformed the walls into an ever-moving montage of psychedelic shape and colour. I stopped to take it all in but Jocky quickly hustled me through the revolving bookcase into his secret lab.
Last time I’d visited it was a flurry of scientific activity as experts in cloning technology strove to produce a second set of testicles for the boss. The lab equipment had been stripped out and replaced by the biggest cauldron I’d ever seen. It stood as tall as Big Rab reaching up to catch a crossed ball and was as wide as half-a-dozen Mark McGees standing shoulder-to-shoulder. It sat perched above a pile of burning timber and contained something that smelled deliciously familiar. I inhaled deeply, savouring the aroma of Jocky’s staple diet.
‘That’s the gemme, pal. Cannae beat the smell o’ the auld Jon Bon Jovis, eh? It’s like yir nose is getting its hole. Fuckin’ marvellous.’
He pointed out a couple of ladders that sat in the corner and told me to grab one. We perched them against the side of the cauldron and climbed up to peer into the pot. It was practically full to the brim with corned beef and potatoes. Jocky cast his eye over them like a preacher looking benevolently out into his congregation.
‘Stovies, Leigh. Pure, undiluted YAS! for yir taste buds. The snowy peak o’ Mount Teckle. The stuff that wiz glowing in thon suitcase in Pulp Fiction. If Rocky blew up the Death Star in the A Team van and yi’ stood there watchin’ wi’ yir mooth open, it would taste o’ the stovies.’
The man’s love for corned beef and potato was staggering.
‘Probably quite healthy too, eh boss? Good for you, like’
‘Fuckin’ right, pal. The stovies’ll put hairs on yir chest, ba’bag, and teeth. Aye, yir teeth. Eh hae ti’ shave mine three times a week. They’ll mak’ yi’ a man, or a wummin that looks helluva lot like a man. Mind that boy that yaesed ti’ play fur United, John Clark? Scored in the Nou Camp against Barca? That wiz a lassie. A big, mental, stovie-raised lassie. Sooked aff Gary Lineker in the bog at the Centenary efter the second leg at Tannadice tae. Go on yersel’, Hoss!’
‘I know you like the stovies, boss, but why so much of them? There’s enough to feed half of Dundee here.’
‘That’s the plan, cunto. That’s the fuckin’ plan. ‘Mon see this.’
I followed as he got off the ladder and went over to a massive stack of empty, clear plastic containers like those you’d receive takeaway food in, only with the DFC club crest on one side and a red, white and blue pound sign on the other. Next to the containers stood a pile of lids with a label placed in their centre. I picked one up. It read ‘STOVIES – FUCKING OOFT!’ across the top, a photo of Jocky with a topless, grinning Jon Bon Jovi in a full nelson wrestling hold and ‘MAY CONTAIN TRACES O’ NUTS – YAAAS!’, below it. I strained my eyes to see the small print, which read, ‘Soapy spruced the auld ba’bag up before they were dunked in though so it’s nae bather, ken?
‘Eh ken what yi’ must be thinkin’, Leigh. “Did Jon Bon manage ti’ get oot the full nelson?” The answer is did he fuck, yi’ mad vagina. Boy wiz there like that fur the best part o’ 45 minutes before his tour manager hit iz wi’ a steel chair so the cunt could finally get onstage.’
He was planning on selling his homemade stovies as a fundraiser for the club. His overheads weren’t much: the cauldron was apparently Granny Scott’s, the tatties came through being “on the co” with Savo Milne, who was supplying the portion of his wage that was paid in St Johnstone chairman Geoff Brown’s premium range potato, and while the corned beef wasn’t free it was sold at a discount rate because Jocky gets that kind of treatment from Dundee-supporting shop proprietors.
There was to be an accompanying product called “Bomber Broon Sauce” but Jocky admitted it was just the cheapest stuff available with a new label featuring a photo of the time Bomber met John Digweed at the Rhumba plastered over the top of the existing one. Jocky was eager to do his bit to help the club, and as far as methods in which to do so went, this was actually a very good one.
It didn’t stop there either. A Dundee v Dundee United 5-a-side match featuring players old and new was to take place at Gussie Park, the Astroturf pitch in the shadow of Tannadice. A fundraising night at the Fairmuir was planned. Guests would hand over £2 at the door instead of the usual £1 and Jocky had gathered a number of weird and wonderful prizes for an auction.
Among the strange items to be sold off was a framed print of the classic photo of a victorious Mohammad Ali standing over his fallen opponent, Joe Frazier, only with Jocky’s head stuck over Ali’s and Kevin from The Wonder Years grinning mug over Frazier’s. Steve Irwin’s shirt had somehow made it back from Heaven. An empty tub of Vaseline once owned by Jim Leighton, and a leather jacket stolen from the former Scotland international at the same time the Vaseline was “donated”. A Dundee top signed by the United squad and a United top signed by Dundee provided oddities for the serious collector, and a jar filled with black smoke labelled, ‘LEE’S WILKIE’S SOUL – BLACKER THAN WESLEY SNIPES DRESSED AS JOHNNY CASH AT A FANCY DRESS PARTY IN A COAL MINE’. If that didn’t bring the money rolling for Dundee, the bachelor auction featuring Dick Donnelly, George “Zico” McGeachie and the butcher who gave Jocky a good deal on corned beef surely would.
‘Fancy playin’ fur the Dee in the 5-a-side gemme, Leigh? £500 per-skull ti’ play, it’ll just be a wee kickaboot ti’ raise a few quid like, nothin’ serious like. Me and baldy are team captains, there’s a few auld lads and a few o’ the current lads up fur it.’
He hesitated for a second, his face and mood seeming to drop ever-so-slightly before continuing, ‘be braw fur yi’ tae get even a wee taste o’ a derby gemme.’
I heard what he said but didn’t grasp the full weight of it. I agreed and said I’d love to play. Barry Smith was unlikely to be concerned about me playing and potentially getting injured in a fundraising kickabout. There was no threat involved in such an event.
I should have known better than to think a Dundee v United game with the sides captained by Jocky and McLean would turn out to be anything even vaguely resembling a friendly affair.
The attack chopper strafed us with gunfire as it screamed overhead, sending chunks of Astroturf flying as it was pocked with bullet holes. A hand-held rocket launcher boomed in retaliation. The small missile left a trail of white smoke as it flew straight and true to meet its target, clipping the helicopter’s tail section and sending it into an uncontrollable spin. It descended like a drunk falling down a spiral staircase and crash landed on the centre circle. The pilot and navigator jumped out and ran but were thrown 20ft in the air by the shockwave as the chopper exploded in a fireball. The chaos and destruction of war was all around. It was 0-0in the 5-a-side Dundee derby at Gussie park.
‘Leigh, hae a run at goal! Here’s yir chance tae be a Dundee legend.’
Jocky and I were hunkered down a crater created by a rocket from the helicopter. The ball was sitting next to me as I lay cowering in the foetal postion with my hands shielding my head as best possible.
‘Fuck off! We’re going to get killed here! What the fuck is going on, eh? It’s meant to be a kickabout for the Dundee fund, not a fucking warzone!’
Jocky looked disappointed, shaking his Stars-and-Stripes crash helmet-protected head, which, while making me a tad suspicious when he put it on in the changing room, had given no real indication of the level of violence that was about to take place.
‘Fuck up, ya cunt! Yi’ didnae see Mo Malpas being a wee pap like that did yi? That cunt’s a credit tae his club!’
‘MAURICE MALPAS IS LYING OVER THERE DYING WITH A LEG BLOWN OFF! WHY WAS THERE A LANDMINE BURIED IN THE ASTROTURF?!’
‘Eh ken you’re a striker, Leigh, but we need a defence tae! Fuck sake you, that’s basic fuckin’ tactics!’
The game had erupted into a fire fight less than a minute after kick off. David Goodwillie was a nervous wreck as he got things underway with Kevin Gallagher. He’d been duped by Jocky marking himself on the team sheet as a trialist and was now rightfully in fear of his safety.
‘Hiya Davie Teckledong! Hiya pal! Dinnae look so worried, son, it’s just yir pal Big Jocky loomin’ ominously over yir future like a rape charge, it’s nae bather.’
The Dundee team, consisting of Big Rab, Tosh McKinley, Craig Forsyth, Jocky and myself in the starting line up and Bobby Glennie and Stevie Campbell on the subs bench, had been told to follow Jocky’s lead when the game got underway.
It turned out that meant assaulting David Goodwillie the second the whistle blew to get the game started. Jocky went full steam ahead at him and launched his patented flying clothesline, making it the second time David had felt its brutal force. Craig Forsyth (or “Stewart” as Jocky called him) and I just stood there watching but the group of older players and a seriously hyped-up Rab Douglas followed orders and piled into Goodwillie as he lay in a crumpled heap.
McLean had reacted quickly, commanding the United side (Paul Hegarty, Maurice Malpas, Goodwillie, Gallagher, Jon Daly and Billy Thompson) to retaliate. As had happened on our team the younger guys had backed off while the old heads piled straight in and started scrapping. When McLean took a kick in the nuts and a friendly, “fuck you, ya baldy Arab bastard”, from a clearly thrilled Bobby Glennie he called in air support.
An attack chopper had come in all-guns blazing, driving us back and making huge holes in the turf as rockets and bullets rained down. Jocky called in his own reinforcements – the Hulltoon Huns.
A crack unit of the tap o’ the Hull’s elite urban commandos, under the command of Jocky’s pal and scourge of the 22 to Downfield, Mikey, dropped the cunning guise of a St John’s Ambulance team on duty for the game that they’d been hiding behind and unleashed the ground-to-air assault weaponry and mortar rockets. As they sent the Arabs running for cover with returning fire the Dundee team took shelter in the rocket craters left by the chopper. Apart from Rab Douglas, who simply jogged and stretched along his 18 yard line as he would in any other game when the action wasn’t in the immediate vicinity. He’s played in Old Firm derby so was no stranger to this kind of scene.
United had attacked us in the footballing sense first. With Goodwiliie and Daly obviously terrified it was left to Maurice Malpas to break from his defensive position and dribble towards our goal. He got pretty far before finding Jocky’s defensive line where a bang halted his progress and saw him vanish in a cloud of smoke. The ball rolled into the crater Jocky and I hid in. Just as we thought the attack was over a leg severed mid-thigh tumbled down from a height and landed right on Stevie Campbell’s head.
‘’Mon tae fuck ref, that boot wiz at head-height! Get a hud o’ him!’
The ref had long since disappeared, and Malpas was rolling around in shocked agony with most of one leg missing. We all stood up and looked on at the most horrific injury ima….
‘Mo! Mo! Fuck You, Mo!’
Bobby Glennie was singing and clapping at the injured Arab. It was disgu…
‘Mo! Mo! Fuck You, Mo!’ responded Jocky. Everyone bar Craig and I sang it the third time and they added extra venom to a final, ‘Fuck You Maurice Malpas!’, before ducking for cover, laughing.
Jocky was in his element among the madness. He sat pondering his next move. Using his trusty megaphone he started taunting the enemy.
‘Hear, McLean – mind that time eh’ caught you and Brewster daein’ what you claimed wiz, “a wrestling-based training technique used on the continent”. Aye, at clubs like FC Dung Tonguer. Di’ yi’ think eh’m zipped up the back, ya mad bisexual vagina?’
Silence on the battlefield broken only by a few sniggers from both ends of the pitch.
‘DAAAAVIDDDD TECKLEDONG! How are yi’ gettin’ on up they mountains wi’oot that mountain bike that got burnt when the shed mysteriously went up in flames? Bet it’s affy inconvenient no’ haein’ adequate transportation up they mountains yi’ ken like the underside o’ yir helmet, ya Ghurkha cunt.’
He took the megaphone away from his mouth and jabbed his thumb towards enemy lines as he insisted, ‘cunto there’s never seen a mountain in his life! That bike wiz a fuckin’ joke.’
There was a tense silence for several minutes. Jocky broke it when he suddenly remembered an important non-footballing matter.
‘HEGGIE! WHAUR’S MEH SAVED BY THE BELL BOX SET, YA CUNT? SURELY YOU AND YIR CIVIL PARTNER DAVIE NAREY HUV WATCHED THAT BY NOW! GIES IT BACK, YA CENTRE HALF CUNT.’
Something had to give. Either we attacked or United came to try and take possession. I was scared witless and wanted it over as soon as possible.
Thankfully a call came in that got things moving. We heard an Erasure ringtone in the distance and McLean’s gruff response to the caller. 30 seconds later Single Ladies went off in Jocky’s pocket. After a series of “kens” and a concluding “cheery!” Jocky came off and went on the megaphone.
‘THE POPE JUST PHONED YOU TAE, EH JUM?’
He responded in the aftirmative.
‘BETTER GET UP THERE PRONTO, CUNTO.’
Another affirmative response.
‘NEXT GOAL THE WINNER?’
Jocky paused only for a heartbeat then exploded into life. He leapt up, took the ball at his feet and dribbled quickly to Mo Malpas’ severed leg before turning towards the United goal. McLean was already out to face him and started sprinting forward to meet the attack. He didn’t see what Jocky was carrying until it was too late. Jocky accelerated, feigned left then right, swung the leg by its foot and smashed McLean across the head with it at the exact moment he nutmegged him with the ball. The United players had stood to watch and were now faced with Jocky coming at them with a severed leg he’d just knocked Jim McLean out with,. There was no decision to make. They parted and let him through, and after coshing Goodwillie with the leg on the way he walked the ball into the net to make it 1-0 Dundee.
For a couple of seconds we just stood there without moving or saying a word…….
We shouted in unison and raced downfield to celebrate with the goal scorer, who by now was over by the corner flag break dancing. It was a brilliant celebratory routine that climaxed in a full head spin. I realised that’s what the Stars and Stripes crash helmet had been for all along. A man can’t do a proper head spin without a good crash helmet on his head.
We mobbed him, lapping up our hard-fought victory. Dundee had won the derby, battered David Goodwillie, blown up a helicopter and taken Mo Malpas’ leg clean off. Jocky proclaimed it to be, ‘the 6th best derby of a’ time,’ and called on McLean to get a move on. Apparently the phone call was from the Pope who had informed them a member of a visiting party from the Civil Service Clubbie had been overheard suggesting his pint wasn’t up to much and that the pipes might need cleaned
‘Cheeky fuckin’ bastard. Nae danger he’d comin’ up tae oor clubbie and spouting shite like that. Eh kept meh pus shut when eh discovered the gloryhole in the bog at their clubbie, even when some cunt poked their dinger through it and aboot took meh mince peh oot. You a’right there Jum? Derry Rhumba by the way, 1-0 ya cunt.’
McLean was groggy from the smack in the head with the leg, which was now clamped between the teeth of a vicious looking dog one of the Hilltown lads had brought along. Jocky ushered him along towards the exit and asked me to join him. I quickly shook hands with everyone and followed them into a taxi bound for the clubbie.
‘Eh’ll fuckin’ “pipes need cleaned” you, ya cunt! Nae cunt comes up here and gies us shite like that. Nae cunt!’
Some clubbie rules are written down in an official manner. The signing-in process and regulations relating to drink transportation, for example. There are also unwritten rules, which, while not strictly official, are observed with the same due respect. Keep it quiet during the bingo. Long-term members hold priority rights to their seat, regardless of the fact there is no notification of said members name on that seat. They aren’t written down because they don’t need to be. It’s the law of the land and everyone obeys them without question.
The man who made the mistake of his life questioning the cleanliness of the Fairmuir’s beer pipes knew this now. The process of being stripped naked and tied spread-eagled to two chairs so that the club’s bowling team could use your groin as target practice will do that to a man. He will remember the rule he broke for as long as he lives.
Bowl after bowl thundered down the long green carpet that had been laid out in the main function room. The bowling team were among the finest in the city. They hit their target with deadly accuracy time and time again as Jocky stood over him and ensured he “kent the score” on the quality of the beer available in the fine establishment he was currently being tortured in.
Once the man’s groin was bruised and swollen beyond all recognition he was sent packing, still naked, with the instruction to remember and tell his fellow Civil Service Club members there was a quiz night on the 24th with £23, 6 week rollover first prize up for grabs and that they were all most welcome to attend.
‘Good seein’ yi’, pal. Mind and tell a’cunt at the Civil Service eh wiz askin’ fur them. Teckle!’
Back inside and Special in-hand we raised a toast to the derby win.
‘Eh’ve seen rougher gemmes, pal. That’s no’ the first time Fuck You Mo lost a limb in the derby, and Heggie wiz quite subdued wi’oot his hubby there. Wonder how Davie Narey couldnae mak’ it? Probably had a prior toe-pokin’ engagement somewhaur.’
I started gabbing away about the bit where the helicopter came down and how it’s hard to imagine it happening at Dens or Tannadice.
‘Next time we play them I’ll keep an eye out for McL….’
I trailed off into silence as it hit me. That was going to be my sole derby experience. Funny though it may seem I hadn’t thought the administration crisis through at a personal level. My focus had been fixed on everything but the fact I was a saleable asset who would be sold to ease the financial burden come the next transfer window in the New Year. My time at Dundee was only weeks away from coming to an end.
‘Eh wondered when the penny would drap,’ said Jocky with a sympathetic smile. ‘It’s no’ been much o’ a scrammy waitin’ fur you tae realise the Dee will hae tae sell yi’ come January.’
I sat letting it run through my head. I never expected nor wanted to stay at Dens all my life. I had plans to play down south, maybe abroad, and definitely at Easter Road for Hibs. But this wasn’t right. I wanted to see out the original goal of helping to take Dundee to the SPL. I didn’t want to leave while the future still hung in the balance.
‘Jocky sees yi’ thinkin’ it’s no’ the right time tae go yet, Leigh. Jocky sees yi’ and thinks a lot o’ yi’ fur feelin’ that way. But a decent transfer fee will go a helluva long way here the noo. Yi’ might feel bad goin’ elsewhere but yi’ll be playin’ an even bigger part in savin’ the club than yi’ could play on the park by headin’ aff tae pastures new. It’s a’ aboot the dough the noo, pal, and you’re the doughiest thing we’ve got. You’re a fuckin’ doughball, Leigh.’
We sat staring into our pints. I was gutted. Dundee meant a lot to me, both the club and the city. I had a lot of good friends here. Jocky slunk off to the loo, allowing me to have a moment of quiet contemplation amid the homely sound of darts landing in the board and the chatter of friendly Dundonian banter. I realised just how much I had grown to like the place. The thought of leaving was definitely less than teckle.