All good things must come to an end. It was time for me to move on, and while I would miss Dundee FC and all that surrounded it greatly, I left knowing I’d given my all, that the money from my transfer would go a long way towards keeping the club afloat, and that my goals and efforts as a player had played a part in the team standing up to be counted when it mattered. Undefeated in the league since administration and more resolute than ever before, I had a feeling in my bones that Dundee would not be relegated, go under, and that they would live to fight another day. I wished more than anything that I could have been part of a promotion winning team, but when fate plays its hand you have to make the best of it. I was proud of my time as a Dundee player.
I woke up in my Caird Park tepee for the last time. As I walked out into the brisk January morning I wondered how I’d get on in a luxury flat in Wolverhampton. It was a definite step up, accommodation-wise, yet somehow I’d really miss my Native American-style abode.
My last day in Dundee was set to be an emotional one. I had already said goodbye to the fans. They’d given me a wonderful, moving send off after a home win against Falkirk. I had a lump in my throat as I did a post-match lap of honour.
My final day in Dundee would start at Dens, where I would bid farewell to the players and staff. The evening would be spent at a fundraising night at the Fairmuir, where I would be seen off by the many friends I’d made there. It would be a day of heartfelt goodbyes. Parting really is such sweet sorrow.
Poor Rab. The big man pretty much crumbled the minute I laid eyes on him. After a final meeting with manager Barry Smith, a man who has done so much to revive the playing squad in the dark post-admin days, he took me to the dressing room to see the players. He made a wee speech, thanking me for my efforts as a Dundee player and wishing me every success for the future. He passed me a gift the players and staff had chipped in for. When I saw the security tag was still attached I chuckled, looked around the room and found Rab biting his lip and looking to the ceiling with wet eyes. As I went to thank him he burst into tears and scooped me up into his massive frame, hugging me to within and inch of my life and telling me if I ever needed anything – ANYTHING – he was more than happy to steal it for me. What a guy. I love Rab Douglas.
I went around the room for handshakes and hugs. I’d miss the boys at Dundee immensely. Gary Harkins: the hairiest genius turned dependable captain I’d had the pleasure of playing with; Craig Forsyth: a second generation Dee player who would go on to great things himself one day; Sean Higgins: my strike partner and owner of the finest collection of Nazi memorabilia this side of Archie Macpherson’s house. Good boys one and all. I told them it had been an honour and a privilege to play with them, and that I looked forward to one day returning to Dens to watch them playing an SPL fixture.
I walked out onto Sandeman Street with a tear in my eye. Taking a deep breath I steeled myself for more of the same later, because saying goodbye to the Fairmuir, and in particular their moustachioed Top Boy, was likely to be harder still.
I pulled up outside the clubbie in a taxi to find the surrounding streets jam-packed. Scores of cars and an attack chopper took up every available space, and many vehicles were double-parked or ditched anywhere they could be. Pleasingly, Dundee’s fundraiser had drawn a big crowd. I got to the front door to find the usual two old jokers in place taking names and £1 entry fees. They were pleased to see me, and I them. After a quick exchange of banter I dropped in my pound coin and a fiver for the lads to get themselves a pint, which always went down well. They ushered me through to the main function suite, which was as busy as I’d ever seen it. I looked around the room smiling. This was Dundee right here; good, honest, friendly, working class people who were proud of their background and home town. If ever the term “salt of the earth” was an appropriate term to use it was right here in finest working men’s club in the city.
The Pope was in the queue for the bar. I went over to say hello.
‘Leigh! Good tae see yi’, pal! We kept yi’ a seat.’
He nodded towards a table where Jim McLean sat holding court. He caught my eye, gave me a thumbs up and patted a vacant seat by his side. I stuck a £20 note in the empty pint tumbler used to hold the kitty, added another +1 next to “Pint o’ Special” on the drinks list sticking to the tray used to transport drinks to and from the bar and went to join my pals. As I went I heard my name being called out from the other side of the room, where a table of Dundee players sat grinning and waving. As an unexpected bonus it seemed I’d get a final bevy with my now-former teammates.
I joined my table and got right in the swing of things with the good-natured ribbings and banter, and by the time Tam returned with a round of drinks an announcement was made over the PA.
‘Ladies and gentleman, please welcome your host for the evening: Biiiiiiiiiig Jocky!’
Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” burst out the speakers, and Jocky made his entrance.
I spat a mouthful of beer all over myself when I saw he was wearing what could only be described a pimp outfit – a full length purple fur coat, a matching hat with what looked like a seagull feather sticking out of it and his trackie bottoms. The trackies were less pimping than his coat and hat but at least he was actually wearing something to cover his nether regions.
He took a mic as he got up on the stage at the front of the room. As the music continued playing he waved a hand over his head from side-to-side, and encouraged us to do the same. The whole room waved in unison until the music faded out.
‘Eh’m laaaid back; wi’ meh mind on the stovies and the stovies on meh mind. Yas! Bit o’ Snoop Doag there, ken? Mind that time he turned up wi’ a’ his pals fae the Crisps? Fuckin’ shitey gang name!
The crowd, mostly of pensionable age, murmured as they recalled the night one of the most notorious gangs on the planet turned up. Tam shook his head dismissively, snorting, ‘Crips? Fuckin’ Mid rule ya fool. Those cunts wouldnae last 10 minutes in Dundee.’
Jocky removed his coat and hat before gathering our attention so he could continue.
‘Right a’body, hud yer wheesht. We’re gonnae hae the auction first, the proceeds o’ which – minus meh 10% fee – will go tae a’bodies favourite futba team, the biggest and best team in the toon, Dundee FC.’
A big cheer went up, drowning out McLean’s protesting voice.
‘Efter that there’s gonnae be a wee ceremony tae mark the occasion and we’ll finish the gig aff wi’ some live music. Eh’ll warn yi’ now: It’s likely tae be fuckin’ teckle!’
As we gave him a warm round of applause Jocky ushered a handful of folk up with the auction prizes. It was quite the collection of oddities, and included……no, it couldn’t possibly be……
‘Right folks, first up: A gemme o’ twa-touch wi’ Pele!’
The greatest footballer of all time stepped forward. This was quite a coup. Jocky had played against the Brazilian legend back in the ‘70s and the pair of them had obviously kept in touch. What an incredible prize.
‘Eh’ll start the biddin’ at 10p. As a side note, if any cunt reckons they’re gettin’ their hole later but cannae keep the bad boy standin’ at attention – and eh’m lookin’ at you here, McLean – cunto here’s puntin’ Viagra as well as playin’ the highest bidder in the car park.’
The room went into a frenzy as pretty much every guy present started trying to outdo each other with the highest offer. After a furious period of bidding Sean Higgins won it with an offer of several thousand pounds, a fully operational Panzer tank and Hitler’s jawbone.
‘An all-expenses-paid trip tae Heaven, courtesy o’ meh Granny. It’s a return trip, like, yi’ll be back in time fur last orders.’
Understandably there was a great deal of hesitancy, and despite Jocky’s encouragement only a couple of brave souls ventured a bid. A blue-rinse-haired pensioner called Betty won it for 70p, reasoning that it was worth the risk if she could meet Elvis.
‘Well in, Betty doll. Yi’ll meet Elvis nae bather, he plays fur Davie Cooper’s 5-a-side team. Chuck Berry plays fur Tommy Burns’ team, it’s a rock ‘n’ roll Old Firm clash and nae mistake.’
With that she was lead out the room to be strangled in the toilet. The prizes had been good so far. Jocky asked for quiet as he introduced the next item.
‘This next prize, ladies and gents, comes straight fae the pits o’ Hell. Eh give yi’…….Lee Wilkie’s soul!’
A chorus of boos went up, and some people had to avert their eyes as Jocky held up the jar of black smoke I’d seen in his secret room a few weeks back. There were no bids for this particular auction item, so Jocky had to improvise. He went into a rambling auctioneer spiel.
‘YacuntthisprizeisshitecauseWilkie’sadirtyJudasArabbastardbutsomemongocunt’sboundtaewantit, SOLD! Big round o’ applause fur Jum McLean a’body, that wiz an affy generous offer o’ 15 grand! Teckle, baldy!’
As McLean got a standing ovation he could only sit dumbfounded and speechless with a wallet now several thousand pounds lighter. Jocky gave him a sincere look as he offered hearty applause then let his mask slip for just a second with a cheeky grin and a “wanker” hand gesture before switching back to clapping.
The rest of the auction went well. By the end of it we’d raised a large sum of money to add to Dundee’s fighting fund, McLean had a raging erection to contend with after dropping one of Pele’s pills earlier than he perhaps should have, the Pope had a necklace made of Jim Duffy’s teeth, and although there was no physical evidence of my prize, I was, apparently, the proud owner of Charlie Nicholas.
There was a brief break in proceedings so everyone could replenish their drinks and use the toilet. Once the crowd settled back down in their seats Jocky took to the stage again. He raised the mic to speak, but as he did so he looked my way and paused to offer the sweetest, most honest little smile I’d seen on his face in all the time I’d known him. He winked at me then continued.
‘Settle doon, ya cunts. Oarder, oarder. That’s the gemme. Now, this is a wee fundraiser night fur the mighty Dee, but as maist o’ yi’ ken it’s somethin’ else tae.’
Lots of heads turned in my direction.
‘One o’ oor pals is leavin’ the night. He’s awa’ doon the road ti’ play futba fur an eagle in England.’
Oh man. I felt my heart jump up into my mouth and my face go bright red. I looked across the room to see the Dundee contingent smiling in my direction. Apart from Big Rab, who was dabbing tears from his eyes with a white hankerchief.
‘A’body kens Leigh, eh? Stand up, pal.’
I sheepishly stood up.
‘Leigh’s been comin’ here fur aboot a year now. Cunto’s been gettin’ awa’ wi’ no’ even being signed in! That wiz meh doin’, eh says it wiz nae bather. Since he’s been drinkin’ in the Fairmuir eh think eh speak on behalf o’ a’body when eh say he’s been a braw guest. Boy respects the clubbie, the people, and he gets the drinks in, which is fuckin’ teckle fur cunts like me wha are on the dole. What does a’body think? Has he been a good guest?’
The whole place shouted, ‘AYE!’ as one.
‘Eh kent that, likes. Wi’ that in mind, Leigh, we – the Fairmuir – want ti’ gie yi’ a wee leavin’ gift.’
I was fighting back the tears and losing.
‘Leigh, eh saw thon film aboot plastic surgery the other night. As eh watched Scarface one o’ Ally Pacino’s lines struck iz as similar tae what goes on here: In this clubbie yi’ hae ti’ get signed in first. Then when yiv been signed in yi’ get tae ken a’cunt. Then, when a’cunt thinks yir sound as fuck………then, yi’ get yir membership. ‘Mon up and get yir caird, pal. That’s you officially Fairmuir fur life.’
I walked up to the stage with thunderous applause ringing in my ears. I climbed up and walked towards Jocky, who suddenly announced, ‘Say hello tae meh little friend!’
‘BILLY LIKES FUTBA!’
Billy Dodds came bounding out in a Tony Montana-style white suit. He leapt up into my arms and showered my face with kisses.
‘Hiya Leigh! Hiya pal! Billy’s a sports journalist!’
I hugged him back, laughing.
‘I see yi, Billy! Leigh sees yi!’
When he broke our embrace he went to the inner pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a membership card for the clubbie. As he handed it to me and I inspected it (it read ‘LEIGH “MONGCHOPS” GRIFFITHS – FAIRMUIR ON TOUR YA BAS’) a huge cheer went up. What an honour. I was as proud as punch. I turned to Jocky, who smiled, shook my hand and whispered, ‘Meet iz in the dugout efter the perty’s finished, pal. We’ll hae a wee blether before yi’ go.’ He winked and ushered Billy and I off the stage.
A familiar song suddenly came over the PA.
‘The Beastie Booooooooys! They are they’re comin’ home. They’re coming hoooooooome, oh, they’re comin’ hooooome……’
It was “The Biz vs The Nuge” from Check Your Head. Jocky started bouncing up and down like a kid on Chrsitmas morning.
‘Ya cunt, set phasers tae FUCKIN’ TECKLE, ‘cause here comes tonight’s special guest band: THE BEASTIE BOYS! YAAAAAAAAAAASSSS!!!’
The Beastie Boys, the actual fucking Beastie Boys, burst out onto the stage. Ad Roc hit the mic.
‘Yo Fairmuir, it’s tiiiiime to set the fucking record straight!’
As they smashed into their punk rock barnstormer “Time for Livin’” the whole place went mental. Within seconds a heaving, pogoing, slam-dancing moshpit had formed at all points of the function suite. Pensioners were crowd surfing and stage diving. Jocky was going seven shades of crazy right in the midst of it all. I gaped at the crowd, the band and then the crowd again. I decided against asking questions and threw myself into the melee. I’m pretty sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen at the Civil Service clubbie.
Closing time came around far too soon. As the shotgun blast from the bar signalled it was either get out or go to the crematorium, everyone present formed a guard of honour out the function suite. Mike D started a chorus of “For He’s the Jolly Good Fellow”, and as I walked out shaking every hand and accepting every hug and kiss going, one of the old ladies started up a song from the pre-hip hop generation.
‘We’ll meet again, don’t know when, don’t know where….’
As everyone joined in Jim McLean and the Pope wished me all the best and told me to come back and see them soon. I would miss them both greatly, and felt deeply honoured to rank among their friends. Same deal for Billy, and had he not been on his potty in the corner I would’ve told him I’d fight Papa Shango for him any day of the week. His enthusiastic wave and smile as someone wiped his arse suggested he knew that anyway.
I walked out the Fairmuir, a club of which I was now a member, filled with sadness, joy and pride. I didn’t know when I’d be back to see these wonderful people, but I knew we’d meet again one sunny day.
Under a clear night sky filled with stars and bright full moon I clambered over the fence into the ground. Dens Park is not the most modern stadia in the world, but it has that special something so many football grounds are sadly lacking these days. It has character. It has a sense of history. It has soul. None of these things are tangible, but somehow you can just feel the place. Perhaps you need to know, understand and maybe even love the club before it strikes you, but Dens is almost a living, breathing part of the city of Dundee. That feeling had never been quite as apparent as I when walked onto the moonlit pitch for the last time.
Jocky was sitting in the home dugout. We’d been here before like this; it wasn’t so long ago that he was saying his goodbyes. Now it was my turn, and this time it was a much more permanent farewell.
I didn’t say anything as I joined him, taking a seat by his side and helping myself to one of the cans of Special in the carrier bag at his feet. I cracked it open, drained about half of it in one go and let out a satisfied gasp.
We sat in silence for quite some time. Though there was much to be said there was no awkwardness or discomfort about it. The times we’d shared allowed us to be at peace with each one another.
I could live for another thousand years and never come close to replicating what had gone on in my life at Dens and with Jocky in the past 18 months or so. We’d bonded and forged a friendship that was quite unique, and it was only just dawning on me that it was a mutual feeling. Jocky may have been the constant epicentre of the wild events, but I’d been there every step of the way with him. There had been a time when I was just another one of his players. Over time I’d become his sidekick, his partner in crime, and most importantly, his best mate.
He nudged my arm and pointed to the night sky. A satellite was passing overhead; a bright little spark tracing a steady path southwards. We watched it until it disappeared from sight.
He laughed a little under his breath, his shoulders bouncing ever so slightly.
‘Mind that time eh hud yi’ phonin’ thon gay chatlines, Leigh? That wiz funny, like.’
I giggled, nodding in agreement.
‘Aye, that was a belter. Mind that time your Popemobile broke down and the AA had to come and tow you away?’
He laughed a little louder.
‘Fuck aye, bet thon boy disnae get many call-oots like that, eh?’
We were getting a little more boisterous as the memories flooded back.
‘Remember the time…..’, I burst into a real belly laugh and struggled to finish my sentence, ‘you took a shit in the hole of the Spanish golf course….’
The pair of us were absolutely pissing ourselves, and in unison we concluded, ‘Calm the ham, Joe. Calm the ham ya shitey-handed cunt.’
I was laughing so much it hurt. We both were. When we finally began to regain our composure the wave of sadness hit me hard. When I turned to him I saw it had caught him too. With the tears now openly streaming down our cheeks we embraced, weeping into each others shoulders and patting each other on the back. It was most emotional, profound moment in all of our time together.
We broke our hug and grinned as we tried to maintain ourselves just a little bit better, and I managed to speak first.
‘Thank you, Jocky. For everything. For bringing me here, for being there for me, and for being one of the greatest guys I’ve ever, and will ever, meet in my life. I’ll never forget you. It’s been mental from start to finish. Mental, but absolutely brilliant. You know you’re mental, don’t you?’, I laughed.
‘Oh fuck aye, eh’m a fuckin’ lunatic. Cannae really deny it, ken? Fucking yaaaas!’
We burst out laughing again.
‘I mean that in the best possible sense, though. I’m going to miss you, boss. More than you know.’
He nodded in thanks and hugged me again. I gave it back to him with all the love I could muster.
‘Cheers, Leigh. That wiz affy nice o’ yi’ sayin’ a’ that. Meant a helluva a lot tae Big Jock here. Seriously, like.’
He tapped his fist against his heart. Taking a deep breath, he gathered himself.
‘Eh’m gonnae say a few thing now, pal. If it’s half a good as thon time eh did the alternative Queen’s speech on Channel 4 it’ll be a real treat. ‘Mon wi’ me.’
He got up and started heading toward the centre circle of the pitch. As I followed he put an arm round my shoulder. We took a few moments to look around the place, to soak it up; to feel it.
‘Mind that Cup gemme against Rangers last season, pal? Yi’ scored a helluva good goal that night.’
I remembered it well. I had scored a curling free kick from distance into the top corner. It would go down as one of my finest moments in dark blue.
‘Meh favourite bit aboot that goal wiz the celebration efter it; yi’ went chergin’ right intae the crowd behind the goal. Tell Big Jocky aboot that.’
I hesitated for a moment as I recalled the moment.
‘I was ecstatic. I went a wee bit daft and jumped into the crowd to join them.’
‘Because……I don’t know……because they looked as happy as I was, I suppose. I felt like one of them and wanted to share the joy I felt.’
‘See ti’ me, pal, that wiz a big moment. When yi’ went in the crowd there yi’ became one o’ the crowd, and nae cunt loves Dundee mair than the fans. Dundee fans huv been through the wringer, and when things like your goal against Rangers happen it’s the greatest feelin’ in the world. Yi’ cannae beat those moments. That’s what it’s a’ aboot.’
He was looking deep into my eyes as he talked now. I could feel his power and passion.
‘When yi’ went intae the crowd that night yi’ went fae bein’ a Dundee player tae a Dundee boy. There’s a difference. Yi’ felt what it’s like tae love this club. It only lasted a second or twa, but fur that wee moment yi’ were dark blue tae the core.’
He was right. I knew exactly what he meant.
‘Ken Big Rab Douglas? He’s no’ just a Dundee player; he’s a Dundee boy. Rab kens what it’s a aboot. Ken Barry Smith? Big time Dundee boy. A leader on the pitch and now fae the dugoot. Eh wiz thrilled when eh heard he wiz the new manager, ‘cause eh ken Barry loves this club. Rab and Barry are Dundee till they die, same as Jocky.’
He puffed his chest out as he burst with pride. There was no doubting his words.
‘You’ve no’ been here long, pal, but ken what? Eh think yi’ ken the score. Eh think yi’ ken what it means ti’ be a Dundee boy, not just a Dundee player, and that will never leave yi’. Never forget what it felt like, son; that moment against Rangers, a’ the shite yi’ had ti’ witness when things went tits up wi’ administration, and maist o’ a’, how the people wha support this club wouldnae let it die quietly when it looked like the end wiz comin’. There’s no’ many sets o’ fans wha huv experienced the lows Dundee fans huv, and accordingly there’s no’ many wha love their club as much. It’s no’ easy bein’ a Dee, but by Christ there’s no’ one o’ us wha would change it.’
I was burning with pride. I felt it. The love for the club and everyone associated with it surged through my veins. Jocky stood watching, searching my soul, and he knew.
‘Good luck, Leigh. Go doon tae England and give it everything yi’ hae. Every-fuckin’-thing, cunto. Fight fur every ba’, chase every lost cause, and mind that me and a’ cunt at Dundee are with yi’ in spirit forever more. Eh’m affy proud o’ yi’, son, baith as a player eh hud the pleasure o’ haein’ on meh team and as a boy eh consider tae be one o’ meh best pals.’
He offered me his hand, and I took it. As we shook them his eyes teared up.
‘Eh’m gonnae miss yi’, Leigh. Cannae even begin ti’ tell yi how much. Jocky loves yi’, pal.’
Once again we embraced. We’d come a long way, Jocky Scott and I. It wasn’t so long ago he was picking his nose and wiping it on my face during a bounce game that had actually finished several hours previously, yet here we were hugging, crying and feeling the pain of a wonderful friendship that, while it will never be broken, is about to be wrenched apart by circumstances and considerable distance.
Though I’m young and relatively inexperienced in the ways of the world I understood that one of the most melancholic, bittersweet aspects of life is that you have to leave good things behind sometimes. My path into the future was bright, yet I would forever look longingly to the past I left behind. As much as it hurt I knew that was the way it had to be.
The soft buzz of a miniature jetpack approaching ended the most heartfelt of embraces. Another friend I would miss terribly was on his way.
‘Wee Jocky’s comng to say cheerio, eh?’
‘Oh fuck aye, of course.’ A look of concern suddenly crept up on his face. ‘If it’s no’ Wee Jock it means McLean’s got himsel’ a jetpack, and if that’s the case the gemme’s up the fuckin’ poley here.’
As the finest feline I’d ever known came into view Jocky breathed an audible sigh of relief then greeted his pet.
‘Hiya Wee Jocky! Hiya pal! How’s it goin’, pal?’
The cat responded, and not in the usual cat-like fashion.
‘No’ bad big aine, no’ bad a’ ta’. A’right, Leigh?’
The cat talked. THE CAT FUCKING TALKED. I stood staring at it, mouth agape, eyes bulging out my head.
‘You……you can talk! What the fuck!’
He looked at Jocky, grinning as he nodded at me as if to say “what’s he all about?”
‘That night on the beach in the Ferry……..you DID say hello to me! I thought I was going insane!’
The wee one chuckled.
‘Leigh, you were right aff yir pus that night, it’s nae surprise yi’ thought yi’ were losin’ the plot. Bomber’s mushies are teckle, ken?’
I was just about to ask what he was on about when Big Jocky interjected, ‘Pay nae attention tae that, Leigh, fuck knows what he’s on aboot!’ and gave the cat a look that suggested he should keep his mouth shut.
‘Leigh, it’s been a pleasure, mate. A’ the best down at Wolves, man. Keep in touch, eh?’
As he hovered in front of me he offered his outstretched paw. I took it between my thumb and forefinger and shook it, stuttering, ‘Aye, you too, Wee Jocky. Thanks, pal.’
It was only fitting that the madness that had been my life in Dundee should stretch all the way to the final moments. The cat could fucking talk. Good grief.
As Jocky went to retrieve his jetpack from the dugout his pet told me about some woman he met in Deja Vu and had shagged in the Wellgate car park, which said as much about the Vu’s clientele as the sexual prowess of the cat.
Jocky hovered back to the centre circle. This was it. This was goodbye.
Jocky looked me dead in the eye and held my gaze before asking the question that had encapsulated my time at Dundee, four words that summed the whole damn thing up perfectly.
‘Wha’s in cherge here?’
It had been asked of many people on innumerable occasions, and there had only ever been one answer. Until now. In many ways, everything that had gone before had been leading up to this final moment, this final question, that, ultimately, he’d hoped he would ask of me and get the correct response.
‘I’m in cherge here, Jocky.’
It wasn’t a challenge. It was confirmation that he’d guided me as far as he could, that he’d played his part, a huge part, in my development and that I would move on ready for whatever the future would bring my way. It was the greatest compliment I could pay him.
He stood tall, proud and satisfied. Job done.
With that he smiled, fired up his jetpack, and with his flying, talking, ninja cat by his side, took off and flew over the Main Stand and out of sight. Goodbye, Jocky.
Life was good in Dundee. When I say “good” I mean it was a never ending onslaught of wonder, joy and balls-out-fucking-mental times. It’s been beyond anything I could have possibly imagined previously on so many levels. It’s been an honour and a privilege to play for this club, to live in this city and make friends with some of the finest people mankind has to offer. I leave feeling blessed to have experienced it, and although it’s time to move on, the fact I was once one of the brave boys who wore the dark blue of Dundee will stay in my heart forever.