My reaction to the sad news that Alan Gilzean had passed away was a funny feeling in the bottom of my stomach.
I knew the Dundee legend was (very) ill, but the confirmation of his passing still hit me hard.
He wasn’t close family, he was ONLY a footballer I had paid money to watch.
My first glimpse – as a 10-year-old – into Gillie’s greatness came in November 1961.
My father had told me earlier in the week that we would travel through to Glasgow on a supporters’ bus to see Dundee take on the mighty Rangers at Ibrox.
Then, on the Saturday morning of the game, a neighbour knocked on our door to say the game had been called off due to fog.
Consequently, the bus, too, was cancelled.
The only scant information on offer these days was radio and TV (Grandstand) and I remember my father being none too pleased when the sports programme revealed just prior to the 3pm KO that the game was, in fact, on!
Fast forward another two or so hours and scores came in, followed my minor reports.
Dundee had beaten their illustrious hosts 5-1 on their own patch, with Gillie netted four!
My father juggled with delight at the result and Gillie’s feat, with one of anger and frustration that he wasn’t there to see it personally.
My second Gillie tale relates to when I answered the phone on the Evening Telegraph sports desk.
Author James Morgan was on the line and he quickly revealed he was writing a book on the Tottenham Hotspur great.
He intimated that Gillie seemed to be a recluse and not many knew of his current movements and whereabouts.
Gillie was a legend from his playing days at Spurs and, indeed, was given the fans’ accolade of “The King Of White Hart Lane”.
Consequently, the title of his book would be “In Search Of Alan Gilzean”.
He then asked when was the last time I saw Gillie.
I replied: “Last night!”
There was an eerie silence on the end of the line and I quickly followed up with: “His son is currently with Carnoustie Panmure Junior FC and I went down to their game last night.
“Gillie, as he had been so often in recent times, was there, and standing beside former Dens team-mate Kenny Cameron.
“I knew Kenny very well and went over for a brief chat.”
After he gulped, Mr. Morgan asked me not to say anything (as if I would!) as the book was nearing its press deadline.
The third Gillie story is brief and brings out the jealousy in me.
Quite simply, my son John was working for Dundee FC and was one of the mainstays of the commercial team which put together the Championship 50th anniversary dinner in the Caird Hall in 2011.
To cut a long story short, he had many dealings with the former players in that great Championship-winning team, and none more so than the legendary Dens No. 10.
Alan was a great help in getting the players together and did intimate it was one of the best events of its kind he had ever been at.
The ‘jealousy’ bit came when John revealed he had the great man’s private number and, in subsequent years, kept in touch.