Sunday, 19 September 2010

Berbatov? Pah! He isn't a patch on Gilzean

"He was far better than Berbatov," said Ian Ure, the centre-half in Dundee's title-winning team in 1962.

"If I was a football manager and you gave me the money to buy one of them, then it would be Gillie every time," concurred Pat Liney, the goalkeeper in the same team.

The 100 or so guests who attended the launch of In Search of Alan Gilzean in Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre yesterday could hardly have realised the significance of the words they had just heard from Gillie's former team-mates, two central characters in the book.

Less than 24 hours later, Dimitar Berbatov would single-handedly guide Manchester United to a 3-2 win over Liverpool in a thrilling Premier League match, the highlight of which was a sensational overhead kick by the Bulgarian.

It wasn't just that Ure and Liney expressed the sentiments, though, it was the assurance with which they did so that made their claim that Gilzean was Berbatov's superior all the more convincing.

It proved a fitting end to a wonderfully nostalgic launch. The Dundee legends were full of tales about the title-winning team and their former team-mate with the golden touch.

Ure remembered losing his temper with Gilzean because he felt he wasn't putting in a shift during an away match against Cologne in the European Cup, losing his temper with a German opponent whom he booted in the ribs in revenge for an earlier challenge and losing his temper with another goalkeeper, Bert Slater, who, concussed from a blow to the head, wouldn't come round in the dressing-room at half-time, despite several slaps to the face. There were plenty of belly laughs at that one.

But perhaps the funniest tale was left to Pat Liney. Recalling an FA Cup tie against Spurs whilst playing for Bradford City in the 1970s, he recounted the teamtalk before kick-off.

"Our manager was making plans for corners to Spurs," said Pat. "He was telling Norman, our centre-forward, to come back and pick up Martin Chivers every time Spurs had a corner. He went through most of the team. And then I said to him, 'What about Gilzean?" and he said, 'Is he good in the air?'. To which I said 'Well, he scored about 50 goals one season in Scotland and 40 of them were with his head.'"

It was a good weekend for the Gilzean brand. This morning, Jimmy Greaves recalled his former strike partner with real warmth and affection in his weekly column in the People, but claimed that he hadn't spoken to his "blood brother" in 40 years.

He also had some particularly nice words to say about the book. You can read Jimmy's column here: http://www.people.co.uk/sport/columnists/jimmy-greaves/2010/09/19/why-i-ve-not-seen-my-spurs-partner-alan-gilzean-for-40-years-102039-22571450/

And finally, for all those who missed the launch we're hosting another Gillie night next month in NPH Cinema in St Andrews on Saturday, 23rd October at 8pm. It promises to be another great night. We will also be announcing details of Spurs-themed Gillie nights in the London area in the near future so keep checking the blog or http://www.backpagepress.co.uk for further details.

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