Goalkeeper Kyle Letheren is still remembered at Dens Park for the save that won Dundee the Championship in 2014 – and that fondness goes both ways.
Named Player of the Year in a title-winning season in his first as an established No1 brought international interest from Wales and an enduring rapport with fans of the Dark Blues.
A post-war club record of 19 league clean sheets saw Letheren lift the Andrew De Vries Player of the Year trophy, though he admits nerves got the better of him in his acceptance speech as he thanked the wrong manager.
A manager Letheren admits he “probably cost him his job!”
But it’s one moment in the closing stages against Dumbarton with Dundee 2-1 up and needing three points to secure the title that sticks in the memory with all who witnessed it.
Speaking to the Courier, the Welsh goalie said: “I remember that save like it was yesterday.
“Paul McGinn put the cross in and Bryan Prunty headed the ball across goal – I thought I was beaten.
“But you always go for it as a goalkeeper anyway and I somehow got a finger on it to turn it past the post.
“The buzz after that was unreal – that’s why you work so hard as a goalkeeper, to make big saves at big times.”
Letheren had arrived from Kilmarnock the previous summer and admits his first season “couldn’t have panned out any better”.
“My two years at Dundee is my fondest time in football,” he added.
“Dundee gave me the chance to become an established No 1, something I am forever grateful for. And my first season couldn’t have panned out any better either.
“John Brown brought me in and there was no mincing of words from him. What you see is what you get and I loved that about him. He was all or nothing as a manager, like he was as a player.
“I remember him being pretty intimidating to meet for the first time, he had these big shoulders and a crunching handshake – a bit of a potty mouth on him, too!
“He was honest as anything, maybe not the best tactical manager I think he’d admit himself, but he demanded you put your heart and soul into everything, just like he did.”
It took a while for things to get going, however, with just two wins in the first six league matches including an opening day to forget in Dumfries.
“We started at Queen of the South away and we got battered down there. I remember there were about 1,500 Dundee fans there and it was the first time I realised how big the club was.
“I was thinking ‘Jesus, if they bring this to games in the Championship, it’s some size of club’.
“There were some home truths dished out in the changing-room after that – there were a few things thrown. That was maybe normal in John Brown’s playing days but it certainly woke some of us up.
“Eventually form picked up and we went on a good run. We were always trailing Hamilton and Falkirk, though, and I’m not sure the manager had the best rapport with the fans.”
Two defeats on the bounce in January, the second a 2-0 defeat at title rivals Falkirk, saw Brown depart the club – something Letheren admits feeling guilty about.
“I probably cost him his job!” the former Plymouth and Salford City man said.
“It was Falkirk away and both teams at the top of the table. There was a short back-pass I think and I came out and brought down Rory Loy and got sent off, we ended up losing 2-0.
“We were third after that but only three points off the top.
“It was sad to see John Brown go because we knew in the dressing-room we had the experience that Hamilton and Falkirk lacked and when it came down to the nitty gritty, we’d do it.
“Paul Hartley came in and had that new manager effect – I think we only conceded six goals in about 14 games.”
Plenty of that was down to hard work done off the pitch says Letheren.
“He didn’t think we were fit enough and effectively did a pre-season in the middle of the season. Not many of the boys enjoyed that.
“The new fitness coach Tam Ritchie loved his running – fortunately I was a goalkeeper and didn’t have to do much!
“I would just watch the boys doing all this running and then wonder how the hell we were going to play on a Saturday.
“The proof was in the pudding, though, and it worked. We didn’t breeze it right enough.
“I thought when we lost 1-0 to Morton, we’d blown it. But we beat Alloa 3-0 in the second-last game and Accies were beaten 4-1 or something by Dumbarton.
“It was back in our hands. A win would do it.
“We knew Dumbarton would be coming to spoil our party like they had Hamilton and would be bang up for it.
“If we drew, Hamilton would need to win by eight goals.
“We went 2-0 up early on and that was a blessing because it just calmed everybody down. But then it got pretty nervous at the end.
“I remember Craig Beattie came on and was marking somebody at a corner saying ‘Hamilton are winning 8-2’ and I was like ‘shut up Beats, what are you on about?’ He was a wind-up merchant at the best of times.
“Then I picked the ball up for a goal kick and a fan told me it was 8-2 to Hamilton. I was thinking ‘wow, this is going to be close’.
“Then Dumbarton got a penalty and scored. I picked the ball out the net and somebody shouted ‘9-2’ – it was going down to the wire.
“Next thing it’s 10-2 at Hamilton, so if we concede they’ve won the league.
“Dumbarton are all over us at times and the last 5, 10 minutes are just a blur – bodies getting thrown in front of the ball and it was a relief when the whistle blew.”
Cue mass celebration at Dens Park as fans flooded the pitch and a party that continued well beyond just that night.
“The night after was a bit of a blur, to be honest,” he said. “Then we had the Player of the Year dinner the following night and the club flew us to Ibiza all expenses paid for a week – you can imagine the mess after that!
“I really look back at those as great days.”
There was plenty of competition for the Player of the Year trophy that season with top scorer Peter MacDonald tipped for it alongside future internationals Martin Boyle and Declan Gallagher.
With rivals like that, Letheren says he thought there was no chance they were going to give it to the goalkeeper.
“I didn’t expect it, nobody gave me a heads up or anything so obviously I wasn’t prepared to make a speech!
“I was so nervous, I hate speaking in public like that and I stood up and forgot to thank loads of people – I think I thanked John Brown but forgot Paul Hartley!
“That probably didn’t go down well.
“I thanked my parents but forgot to say about the back four who’d helped me so much. I was on the spot and so nervous.
“It was great to win that. I had a great rapport with the fans and I loved my time up at Dundee. It really stood me in good stead for the rest of my career.”
Tomorrow: Letheren opens up on his departure from Dundee and his ultimate lifetime double in 2014