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BLETHER: My personal story of Dundee United legend Jim McLean’s generosity

John Holt pays his respects to former Dundee United gaffer Jim McLean.
John Holt pays his respects to former Dundee United gaffer Jim McLean.

Jim McLean masterminded many successful Dundee United campaigns.

His public grumpy frown (one of the nicer phrases) was not just for the opposition, but for his own players, too, if they failed to live up to the extremely high standards set by him and his coaching staff.

‘Extremely generous man’

In recent weeks, I’ve relayed tales of Jim’s other side – one which not too many got to see – that of an extremely generous man, who was very keen to help out those involved in local football.

In this column not so long ago, Billy Grier told of the time Jim gave his Lochee United side a loan of a set of dimple-soled boots to play an important game on a frosty ground, while St James AFC supreme Billy Morton said he was thrilled when Jim, Wattie Smith and a host of United stars played in his testimonial game.

https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/jim-mclean-jocky-scott-bobby-cox-dundee-fc-united-blether-with-brown/

There have been many others, but I also have a personal story.

It was around 1976-77 – a decade prior to me joining the Tele sports desk. I was manager of Broughty Athletic juniors and, in the second game of the season, our former Scottish Schoolboy international goalkeeper Jimmy Lorimer broke his leg.

We struggled on for a few weeks with a succession of amateur trialists, but we needed a goalie of (at least) junior standard.

By this time the league had started and we were at the foot of the table.

Broughty secretary George Christison suggested contacting Dundee United to see if any of their goalies were available.

A trip to the office of Jim McLean

It was a Monday afternoon when I ventured up to Tannadice. I didn’t make an appointment, but simply asked to speak to Mr McLean.

I was mildly shocked when the receptionist phoned through, then told me to go up to his office.

My time in Jim’s office turned out to be very brief.

I introduced myself as Broughty manager and told him of our plight.

John Holt pays his respects to former Dundee United gaffer Jim McLean.
John Holt pays his respects to former Dundee United gaffer Jim McLean.

He looked at me and asked (his words were actually more industrial) why any of his goalies would benefit playing under me.

At that point, his phone rang, which he answered, then told me it was important and that he would have to take it.

I left his office at that point and I didn’t hear anything until the Thursday evening just before our training session started at Claypotts Park.

In walked this giant of young man, who asked to see me. He said that his boss (Jim) had told him to come and help us out.

‘Extremely grateful’

Dundee United’s Dave McKellar – an excellent goalkeeper – played a couple of games for Broughty and assisted us greatly.

I don’t think he played a first-team game for United, but certainly had a good career in the game with the likes of Derby, Brentford, Carlisle and Hamilton Accies.

To this day, I don’t know how Jim knew of our training nights and times, but I was extremely grateful for his help.

Martel Maxwell Jim McLean
Jim McLean at Tannadice in 2011.

Despite trying a few times, I couldn’t get in touch to thank him personally.

Jim McLean’s recent death heralds the end of an era – the man was a giant in Scottish, European and, for many, local football.


Billy Steel was featured in BwB on December 26 for his feat of scoring four goals in one match for Scotland.

That particular piece was enjoyed by reader Tommy Gellatly, who also reckoned he had a “better story”.

Billy Steel.
Billy Steel.

Said Tommy: “Billy Steel was my dad’s favourite player when he played for Dundee, so I really enjoyed reading about him.

“I wasn’t aware he had scored four for Scotland.”

The Ardler, Dundee, resident went on: “My favourite Scotland player was Denis Law and I reckon his feat in a Scotland jersey is a better story.

“For not only did he score four goals in an international, he did it twice.

“And exactly a further year on to the day, he amazingly repeated the feat!”

Tommy supplied the facts to back up his tale.

Denis Law in action for Scotland in 1964.
Denis Law in action for Scotland in 1964.

The Lawman’s first four-goal haul game versus Northern Ireland at Hampden Park on November 7, 1962, in the Home International Championship.

Willie Henderson scored the other as Scotland lined up: Brown (Tottenham); Hamilton (Dundee), Caldow (Rangers, capt); Crerand (Celtic), Ure (Dundee), Baxter (Rangers); Henderson (Rangers), White (Tottenham), St John (Liverpool), Law (Manchester United), Mulhall (Sunderland).

Exactly 365 days later on the same date in 1963, the Scots thrashed Norway 6-1 at Hampden in a friendly.

In addition to Law’s haul, Tottenham’s Dave Mackay hit a double.

Scotland team then was: Brown (Tottenham); Hamilton (Dundee), Provan (Rangers); Mackay (Tottenham, capt), Ure (Dundee), Baxter (Rangers); Scott (Everton), White (Tottenham), Gilzean (Dundee), Law (Manchester United), Henderson (Rangers).


Below is the Sherbrook Rovers team which played friendlies on Sunday mornings in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It’s another photo from a batch Jimmy Don sent in.

This is the Sherbrook Rovers team which played friendlies on Sunday mornings in the late 1960s.
This is the Sherbrook Rovers team which played friendlies on Sunday mornings in the late 1960s.

This team line-up is from 1969-70 and is (back row, from left) – Ian (surname unknown), Bert Massari, Ron Mosby, Jimmy Don, Dave (surname unknown), Sam (surname unknown).

Front row – John Bruce, Stewart Fordyce, Tam Wilson, Mike Muirhead, Jimmy Brady.

Jimmy said: “Sherbrook had the use of the Downfield JFC ground for home matches when available.

“Local bookmaker Jimmy Brady was the man in charge and formed the team from some neighbours in the Sherbrook area.

“Many a good player and teams turned out in these games, with the accent on just playing football and not winning at all costs.

“One team they played a few times was Glendale, and had a number of well-known local junior and juveniles in their line-ups.

“Other teams had strong line-ups, too.

“Jimmy’s brother Harry also turned out a number of times for the team along with a number of others.


This is the Whitfield High School volleyball team, which won the North and East of Scotland Volleyball Championships at Forfar Leisure Centre.

Whitfield High School team.
Whitfield High School team.

Back row (from left) – Charlaine Fitchet, Diane Wallace (captain), Michele Stephen.

Front row – Michelle Smith, Shirley Campbell.

Can any reader pinpoint the year?


St Columba Boys Club U/18, who were Scottish Cup winners in season 1977-78.

St Columba Boys Club U/18.
St Columba Boys Club U/18.

Names given with the photo are (back row, from left) – J Devine, Hutchison (first name unknown), Jake Shaw, Ian Boardley, Ian Carr, Graham Kinloch, Ian Grant, Ally Clarke.

Front row – D Carr, Billy Letford, Graham Irons, Ged Kerrigan, Ian Ogilvie, John Reid.

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