From administration to Premiership top six in five years – Bill Colvin’s time at Dundee was one of the most eventful periods in the history of the club.
More than many others, fans of the Dens Park outfit are used to the highs and lows of being a football supporter.
As lows go, a second plunge into administration was a deep one.
And finishing sixth in the Premiership in 2015 is as high as the club have been this century.
So how did a lifelong Dunfermline fan based in the south of England become “addicted” to “Deefiance”, a key player in saving the club and then a big part of the American takeover 10 years ago?
It all started with the tragic death of Colvin’s father-in-law Bill Gordon, a big Dundee supporter, coinciding with the club’s descent into administration for the second time in just over a decade.
“Very sadly Bill died when he was on holiday with us up in Scotland,” Colvin revealed in a wide-ranging interview with fan group Dee4Life.
“The following day, the club went into administration for the second time. We used to get the Courier delivered down here every day and it helped build the banter between Bill and I when Dundee were playing the Pars.
“We would read about how the club might not survive and think about how Bill would have felt about that. That got us thinking about using some of the money from his house to help his club live on.”
Eventually that money became a heftier and heftier sum as Colvin and his Dundee-supporting wife Pam got “hooked” on helping the club survive a 25-point deduction while in the First Division.
Somehow the team managed by Barry Smith survived in 2010/11, with that season embedded in club folklore as the “Deefiant” team ever since.
“It was unbelievable that we survived the points deduction,” Colvin added.
“What Barry Smith – one of the nicest men I’ve ever met – did was incredible. Then you had Steve Martin’s son-in-law (Craig Robertson) being called up from the juniors, Neil McCann scoring that goal against Raith and Sean Higgins playing with steak in his boots.
“It was crazy.
“The longer the unbeaten run went on, the more addicted we got. It really is like a drug, isn’t it?
“I have so much respect for every one of those players who got us through. When Sparky (Leigh Griffiths) went to Wolves and when Craig Forsyth went down south they waived their fee so the club could keep the cash.
“That was young guys giving up a substantial amount of money and I don’t think a lot of people know that.
“And there was everything that the supporters were doing. It was a real team effort to keep the club alive.”
Houston, we have an investor
Fans had come together to keep the club alive with the Dundee FC Supporters Society, now known as Dee4Life, taking a majority shareholding as the club exited administration in 2011.
Colvin would become a club director before the prospect of a deal to bring in American investment emerged.
Getting that deal done, however, was anything but straightforward.
Colvin and fellow directors Steve Martin and Ian Crichton resigned from the board as negotiations dragged on.
They would then retake their positions once the sale to Football Partners Scotland, the company set up by now-chairman Tim Keyes and managing director John Nelms, was completed.
Colvin explained: “Back in those days I was going back and forward to Houston every two or three months on business, so (CEO) Scot Gardiner and Steve Martin flew over to Houston with me to meet Tim Keyes and John Nelms.
“My company had a box at Houston Dynamo so we took them to the game.
“It was something of a validation that all the Dynamo guys I introduced them to already knew them through John’s involvement with youth football there and Tim’s business background.
“I talked to banks, people that worked with them, advisors, accountants. It was clear they had money behind them and, to be honest, the prospect of having someone to share the load was appealing to me.
“Dundee fans had been absolutely unbelievable. They had put a lot of money in but when money is required overnight, you can’t just go and arrange a fundraiser so I was quite happy to see another investor in there.”
‘Things turned ugly’
He added: “Things did turn ugly in that period, but I certainly understood why they (DFCSS) were cautious.
“They had had to endure some fairly unusual owners, shall we say, who had made bold promises that didn’t materialise.
“Now they had people saying: ‘We’re going to put all this money in,’ and it was understandable they were wondering what the catch was.
“When John, Steve and I held meetings to appease fans who might have concerns, I was shocked at the number of people that turned up.
“At any club the fans keep it going and should be an integral part of it.
“I think it is important there are supporters’ organisations like Dee4Life looking out for fans and asking questions.
“I know from speaking to (Dee4Life director) Kenny Valentine how hard he and the current Dee4Life board are working to ensure Dundee fans have a voice so I would encourage as many as possible to join up.”