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BLETHER: Dundee United fan’s Claudio Caniggia coup, Dundee ref Bob Valentine’s 1980 League Cup Final memories and a Walter Smith quiz question

Caniggia in his pomp.
Caniggia in his pomp.

Claudio Caniggia has locally been very much in the news in recent times.

That’s mainly because of the wonderful exclusive feature-length documentary put together by Graeme Strachan and his colleagues at The Courier.

This alerted Bob Donaldson as he remembers the Argentine as “not just a great player, but a great, great guy, too”.

Bob gave some background to his compliments, and revealed: “I’ve been a member of Downfield Golf Club in Dundee for many years and, around the time of Claudio Caniggia’s time at Dens, as a senior member, I was also involved in helping the junior members.

“This mainly involved fund-raising, with the top event being a yearly race night, which was always packed full, and usually brought in around £3,000.

Claudio Caniggia.
Claudio Caniggia.

“The highlight of this was also having a personality to present prizes and awards.

“Over the years, Dundee and Dundee United players, and golfers such as Ronan Rafferty, Kevin McAlpine and Ian Hutcheon would generously give up their time to attend.”

Retired police officer Bob continued: “The Caniggia connection came about when I was looking for something or someone different and, even as a lifelong Dundee United fan, it was great to see him playing locally at that time.

“I contacted my good friend Dave Forbes, who has given decades of his life voluntarily helping Dundee, and asked him if there was any chance of Caniggia appearing at our function.

“Dave just said ‘leave it to me’.

“Soon after, he told me he would appear and, a couple of days prior to the event, after keeping it a secret, I ‘leaked’ who would be appearing.

“Well, on the night, you should have seen the amount of Argentina strips and blond wigs the youngsters were wearing.

“When Claudio arrived, there was another great surprise as he also brought another Dark Blues star Javier Artero.

“The Spaniard was a class act, too, and was very articulate and spoke perfect English.

“They were brilliant with the kids and signed loads of autograph, photos and shirts.

“It really was an unforgettable evening.”


The photograph (above) of the presentation was supplied by Graham Bell, who was junior convener at the time.

Back row (from left) – Mark (surname unknown), Javier Artero, Claudio Caniggia, Kenny McArthur, Shaun Baxter.

Front row – Jordan Wood, Stuart Nellie, Ross Bell, Shaun Gordon, Matthew Ney, Gordon Wood.

In front of them is young Alexander Caniggia.

Caniggia: 20 Years On is still available at

In football terms, it could be the most unique of rare situations.

A national cup final contested by two teams from the same city.

The match played at one of the finalists’ stadiums.

And the referee was a local official who lived under one mile away from the venue.

This very scenario was played out 40 years ago in Scotland on December 6, 1980, as Jim McLean’s Dundee United and Dundee, managed by Donald Mackay, contested the Scottish League Cup Final, known in that relatively-new sponsorship era as the Bell’s Cup Final.

The match referee at Dens Park, Bob Valentine, remembers it well.

Bob Valentine.
Bob Valentine.

“It was quite an occasion,” he said.

“It was announced three weeks beforehand that I would referee the game.” Bob laughed: “It turned out to be the worst three weeks of my life!

“Everyone, in my office and in the street, had an opinion and/or an affiliation to one of the teams, and were keen to tell me.

“I remember seeing big queues outside Dens and Tannadice for tickets.”

For the actual match, Bob revealed: “It was quite a simple match to referee with little or no controversy.

“I think it’s now widely accepted that United were the better team on the day.

“My home is actually just 800 yards from the ground, and I walked there and back.

“So there was very little expense incurred there.”

Paul Sturrock.
Paul Sturrock.

Dundee’s Bobby Glennie and Paul Hegarty (United) were the respective captains, with the Tangerines emerging 3-0 winners with goals from Paul Sturrock (2) and Davie Dodds in front of over 24,000.

The teams lined up that day . . .

United – McAlpine; Holt, Kopel; Philip, Hegarty, Narey; Bannon, Payne, Pettigrew, Sturrock, Dodds.

Dundee – B Geddes; Barr, Schaedler; Fraser, Glennie, McGeachie; Mackie, Stephen, Sinclair, Williamson, A Geddes.

It’s been well documented over the years that Walter Smith started his Dundee United career after joining from west coast junior side Ashfield.

On that theme, Tannadice fan Billy Turnbull, from Kirkton, Dundee, came on with a query.

He asked: “Alongside Walter Smith, I’m sure there were at least three others who signed for United from Ashfield around that time.

“Can you name them?”

I was able to answer left-back Jim Cameron immediately, but it was in to the archives for further information.

That search yielded Jerry Hernon, an inside-left.


Both Cameron and Hernon were signed in October 1966, just before Smith, who was also the subject of interest at that time from Leicester City.

Cuttings suggested he actually went south for a trial period.

However, Smith eventually put pen to paper a month later for Jerry Kerr’s side.

Two of the Ashfield trio are pictured (above) – Jim Cameron (left) and Walter Smith – at Tannadice, flanking the late Frank Kopel.

Football players, managers and staff are always sought for quotes by the media. I’m continuing to share some of them with you.

Former Celtic manager Wim Jansen, speaking in 2008, on the repercussions of stopping Rangers winning 10 in a row in 1998.

The Dutchman said: “I was recently on a flight to South America and the flight attendant came up to me. He said: ‘Thanks for your contribution to the history of Celtic.’”

This article originally appeared on the Evening Telegraph website. For more information, read about our new combined website.