Billy Connolly has a legendary joke I just love.
A wee man has several wee refreshments too many before going to an Old Firm game.
To his horror he realises he is at the wrong end of the ground.
Fearing certain death if rumbled he manages to stay unnoticed.
Then his team score, and he forgets where he is, jumps up and down cheering, and is taken hostage.
I cannot tell the rest of this brilliant story in a family newspaper, except to say it involves being given money to buy Bovril, leaving a shoe as security, having the process repeated, then being vox popped by a TV news crew about what needed to happen to improve the conduct of spectators at Old Firm games.
I did not really fear for the safety of my friend, Courier reporter Michael Alexander, at the recent Dundee derby.
My son Christopher in Canada sent two tickets for my Christmas pressie and Michael kindly got us to Dens fully aware that as a rabid United fan he would be sitting amongst Dundee supporters for two hours!
He went completely unnoticed.
I did spot a sliver of tangerine showing from the inside of his jacket but no-one else did.
He even managed to make it look like he was applauding Dundee’s efforts when in fact his hands never touched each other.
For me, a return to Dens as a paying fan was the first in 58 years.
Memories of the great team of the early 1960s are still etched in my memory.
Winning the league and reaching the semi-final of the European Cup were wonderful achievements.
Then there was the Latin teacher and great centre forward Alan Cousin of double shuffle (or should I say duplex versas) fame.
This latest derby still had fans singing an adapted version of the folk song Johnny Scobie.
Football passions undimmed
In my youth we listened to the croaky PA system featuring Jimmy Shand playing Bonnie Dundee.
I had to have a pie, sorry peh which wiz guid, so it wiz.
I quickly identified three languages being shouted – English (good), Dundonese (even better) and Anglo-Saxon (unfortunate and unacceptable given the number of young fans there with their folks).
The game itself was played in passionate style but marred somewhat by the blustery wind.
At times it was more like head tennis than football. It ended 0-0 which was fair.
My companion kept making references to 6-2 which my brain could not or would not identify.
I could have mentioned Dundee had won a previous encounter 8-1 although in fairness that was on August 19 1935!
Life as a football reporter
In 1964 I joined DC Thomson as a trainee reporter on news and sport and soon found myself back at Dens and Tannadice, firstly going round the pitch to collect rolls of film from photographers, before promotion to phoning the senior reporters’ copy back to Meadowside.
Then finally I was let loose doing the reports for The Sporting Post, a much-loved, unique Saturday results and reports paper which was written in the present tense.
A degree of latitude was allowed by way of style.
When Dundee scored, the copy often read… “and it’s up wi’ the bonnets in the tenth minute” etc.
A senior colleague went too far one day referring to “the gladiators chasing the spheroid round the pitch!”
Before the recent encounter my last visit was to the League Cup final in 1980 at Dens which United won easily 3-0.
The 0-0 draw was nonetheless an occasion I shall savour and remember.
I asked Michael Alexander for a comment and he joked: “The Great Escape. My night in deep cover behind enemy lines.”
What next for me? A reciprocal exercise at Tannadice? Bring on the Bovril!
*Michael Mulford is an investigative journalist and former RAF Public Relations Officer for Scotland.