Billy Dodds went some way to filling a Tommy Coyne-sized hole in my life before he too left us, ensuring I was au fait with heartbreak at a young age. This would prepare me well for the jiltings that would follow from then until my wife decided I was at least tolerable a decade and a half later.
Dodds was sold to St Johnstone not long after my 14th birthday and, to deploy a metaphor relevant to the time, it was worse than being asked to hand out textbooks just after the appearance of an uninvited classroom bricker. But the pain then was nothing compared to the cat-kicking anger of him signing for United four years later.
Sunday 22 November 1998 may henceforth have been known as James Grady Day, but in the run-up to the match all anyone was talking about was that Dodds would be facing Dundee for the first time since signing for United. In the end, things could hardly have gone better, with the pantomime villain having a perfectly good goal chalked off early before Grady’s wonder strike earned him a place in Derry folklore.
‘Dodds had nothing to do with an imminent financial implosion forcing his departure from Dens any more than he had with Alex Miller’s desire to throw him and three-quarters of a million quid at United in order to get his hands on subbie keeper Robbie Winters’, say our heads. ‘Fucking booooooo! Get that right fucking up ya, ya fucking wee prick’, say our hearts.
Down in the Sewer
Despite their sense of betrayal, most Dundee supporters welcomed Billy Dodds back from the Dark Side as Anakin Skywalker rather than Darth Vader when Gordon Chisholm wanted him as his assistant. This, as we all know, did not end well.
What is undeniable is that both were shafted as promises made to entice them to leave secure jobs were quickly unravelled. Admin II: Admin Harder is a blight on our club to this day and the management team had every right to feel bitter about their treatment. But their subsequent decision to vote against the CVA that would take the club out of administration, a decision that increased the chances of a rebranding as The Dundee, saw sympathy for the pair amongst the fanbase instantly evaporate.
Those close to Chisholm and Dodds are adamant that they had no desire to bring about liquidation. They say the decision was based on their frustration not just at their sacking but at what they saw as a lower settlement being offered to creditors than was necessary. Calum Melville’s largesse being counted as loans and future rent owed to John Bennett being included in the total debt figure, therefore increasing the sum owed to a friendly creditor, rankled as well. Chisholm and Dodds, they insist, were lashing out at administrator Bryan Jackson and certain individuals on the board rather than the club or its fans, and would not have opposed the CVA if they didn’t believe the vote was already a formality.
Whether or not the result was actually ever in doubt has become a moot point in amongst the mythology of the time. Right up until the results were announced, Jackson was warning the vote was on a knife-edge and certainly few fans or employees were anything other than sick with nerves on the morning of the plebiscite.
Relief at the CVA passing quickly turned to anger when the administrator – in a breach of protocol – announced the names of the creditors in the No camp. It was a time of siege mentality when you were part of the problem if you weren’t part of the solution.
Whatever Chisholm and Dodds’ motivation actually was and regardless of the anger they felt at the ballot suddenly not becoming secret, the narrative was set. To fans, they had voted to kill the club and to staff, many of whom are still at the club, they had tried to vote them onto the dole.
Grudges are passed down the generations in football so this week’s events are staggering in so many ways. Perception is often more important than reality. Justifiably or not, Billy Dodds is toxic amongst the Dundee support. It is astonishing that he could have thought being linked with the assistant manager post once again would have met with anything other than widespread animosity. It is worrying that Dundee’s powers-that-be could have been so ignorant to the level of bad feeling this would generate at a time when we need everyone connected with the club pulling together under new manager Jim McIntyre.
Golden (Bomber) Brown
As my mate texted me this morning, boyhood heroes are falling all over the place. Dodds voting against the CVA has been dragged out into the public once again followed Neil McCann being sacked with one of the worst records of any Dundee manager. My pal now expects Tommy Coyne and Keith Wright to be outed as kingpins in a human trafficking ring and George Shaw to stand for election as a Tory.
In recent years, Sir Barry Smith and Bomber were other legends to have their relationship with the club strained by taking on the manager’s job. Even Grady joined the likes of Redford, Ferguson, Wilkie and co in the tainted corner, though he swiftly earned redemption by saying how much he hated life at Tannadice and what a mistake it was to go there.
Heroes might be an inevitable side-effect of being a football fan, but we could probably do with remembering that they may well prove to have feet of clay. However, football people – players, managers, pundits, directors and others – could do with putting their fan’s hat on from time to time to consider why a particular decision might be so unpalatable for the people who pay their wages.