Alan Cousin was a vital cog not just in the side which brought the Scottish League Championship to Dens Park in 1962 but throughout his eleven years at the Club, finishing as top goal scorer on three occasions.
Sporting mainly the number nine shirt, the lanky striker proved the perfect foil for fellow front man Alan Gilzean and between them proved to be a very effective partnership that shot Dundee not only to the league title but also to the European Cup semis and Scottish Cup Final in the subsequent years.
Born at the start of the Second World War in Clackmannanshire, Alan’s first choice sport was rugby and it wasn’t until the age of sixteen that his football career began in earnest when he helped out Alloa Y.M.C.A. as a centre-forward when they were short of players. Having played rugby for the school in the morning, he managed to impress with the round ball in the afternoon scoring twice and within a year was in the Scottish Youth side which defeated England 8-1 at Ayr.
Senior scouts were soon alerted to this fast emerging talent and Dundee manager Willie Thornton persuaded him to sign for the Dark Blues at the age of sixteen in 1955 and so by the time of Dundee’s Championship triumph, he was Dundee’s longest serving player.
Less than a year had passed before Alan made his debut to replace the injured George Merchant on March 3rd 1956 in a 3-1 defeat at Falkirk and his first goal for the Club came a month later at Dens, in a friendly against newly crowned English Champions Manchester United. In a match in which Bobby Charlton made his debut for the Red Devils, Dundee trounced the Busby Babes 5-1 and by the end of the season, Alan had made half a dozen appearances, scoring once more against Motherwell at Fir Park.
Alan was delighted to get a chance in the side that included big names like Doug Cowie and Bill Brown but he chose to combine his early senior career with a St. Andrews’ University degree course which was to stand him in good stead in the years ahead. There he studied Greek and Latin for an Arts degree and became a secondary school teacher in his home town of Alloa after completing a teacher training degree in Dundee and continued to do so after retiring from the game.
Throughout his playing career, Alan astonishingly in modern day terms, remained part-time and while at University, trained on his own with a regime prepared by Dundee trainer Archie McAuley on the St. Andrews beach that was later made famous in the introduction to the film Chariots of Fire.
When Alan graduated to the classroom, he trained three nights a week with Falkirk but there was no fear that all his brains were in his head for during his time at Dens, he gained international caps for the Scottish League and at Under-23 and youth level.
Alan was soon knocking the goals in on a regular basis and he became Dundee’s top goal scorer three years in a row from 1958 to 1960. He became known as ‘the king of the double shuffle’ with a unique scissors movement which seemed to propel him away from opponents in an instant and he regularly mesmerised teams at both home and abroad.
By the end of the 1959/60 season Bob Shankly was now in charge at Dens and Cousin was playing up front with Alan Gilzean and the good times were just around the corner.
By the start of 1961/62 Shankly had brought in the experience of Bobby Wishart, Bobby Seith and Gordon Smith to compliment the talented youngsters and history now shows that Dundee really clicked into gear. With a brand of football arguably among the best since the War, Dundee surged to the Scottish League Championship and Alan more than played his part, playing in all forty-one competitive games, scoring nineteen goals.
And so it was to Europe for the first time and footballing giants Cologne, Sporting Lisbon, Anderlecht and A.C. Milan all came and were conquered at Dens and only a 5-1 reverse in the semi-final in Italy stopped Dundee reaching the European Cup Final at Wembley. It was so near and yet so far for The Dark Blues for at half time in Milan, Dundee went in level after Alan had headed in an Andy Penman cross to make it 1-1. In doing so Alan became the first British player to score in the San Siro, a feat that was not matched until Paul Scholes scored against Internazionale for Manchester United in 1999.
On these European trips Shankly would rely not only on Cousin’s skill on the park but also his skill off it and would employ Alan as interpreter when travelling abroad to get him to tell their hosts ‘what we’re wantin’ for oor tea’.
But it was his skill on the pitch which was most valuable to Shankly and in the quarter-final against Real Madrid’s conquerors Anderlecht, Alan scored in both legs with a goal in the remarkable 4-1 away win in Brussels and the equalising goal at Dens in which Dundee won 2-1. He played in all eight ties on the way to the semi, scoring four times with his other strike coming in a 4-1 second leg win over Sporting Lisbon at Dens.
Season 1963/64 saw Dundee reach the Scottish Cup Final only to lose 3-1 to Rangers. Picking up a runners-up medal in the last of his fifty-three first team appearances that season took Alan’s tally to 142 outings in three seasons – enough to make the modern day player cry ‘fatigue’. It is all the more remarkable that he played these games as a part-time player and he played in all seven matches on the road to Hampden, scoring four times.
By then, Dundee’s greatest side had begun to break up and as a result of the changes to the side, Alan started to play in a deeper role at wing-half wearing the number four shirt before following Bob Shankly to Hibernian for a fee of £15, 000 in November 1965.
In over a decade at Dens, Alan played a whopping 384 games for the Club, putting him comfortably in the top ten of most appearances for The Dee and he sits fourth in Dundee’s all time scorer list with a terrific 141 goals.
One of the gentlemen of the game, Cousin was never booked in his career despite being the victim of some horrendous treatment both at home and on the continent as defenders tried, often unsuccessfully to stop the long striding forward.
Truly Dundee’s ‘Renaissance Man’, Alan still retains his affection for the Club with a picture of the Championship side sitting proudly on his mantelpiece and the next time you see Ronaldo & Co. trying a step over or two, remember that it was the scholar at Dens who was the original ‘king of the double shuffle’.
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish League Champions: 1961/62
European Cup semi-final: 1962/63
Scottish Cup runner-up: 1964
Scottish League appearances: 4
Scotland Under-23 caps: 3
Dundee FC Hall of Fame: Legends Award 2011
League: 288, 103 goals
Scottish Cup: 21, 9 goals
League Cup: 53, 23 goals
Europe: 10, 4 goals
Other: 12, 2 goals
Totals: 384, 141 goals