Alan Gilzean is the ‘King of Dens Park’ and is without doubt one of the greatest players to ever grace a Dark Blue jersey. There have been some great forwards in Dundee’s history but none had a strike rate to match ‘Gillie’ (as he was affectionately known) and his record speaks for itself.
Top Overall Scorer - 169 goals in 190 competitive games.
Top Scorer In One Season - 52 goals in 1963/64.
Top European Scorer - 9 goals.
Top Scorer In One Game - 7 goals against Queen of the South. in 1962. (Record shared with Bert Juliussen)
Top Successive Scorer - 7 goals in 7 consecutive games. (January 1st to February 1st 1964)
Top Hat-Trick Scorer- 17 hat-tricks.
Hailing from Coupar Angus in Perthshire, Alan John Gilzean was born in Perth on October 22nd 1938 and began his football career with his hometown team Coupar Angus Juveniles. He then joined Junior side Dundee Violet in 1955 before signing for Dundee in 1957 after his father persuaded the young Gilzean that Dundee were a better choice than boyhood heroes Hibernian who were also interested.
After banging in goals for the reserves, Gilzean made his first team debut on August 22nd 1959 in a 4-1 League Cup defeat at home to Motherwell and by the end of the season had scored eight goals in eight league games.
Gilzean was the last Dundee player to complete his National Service while at the Club and he would travel up by train on Thursday nights from his base in Aldershot. This may have contributed to the fact that his first goal for the The Dee didn’t come until six months after his debut when he scored in a 3-1 home win against St. Mirren in February and the 11, 000 present that day had little indication of what a goal phenomenon was to follow.
Standing 5ft 9in, with short, dark hair, Gilzean quickly became the answer to Dundee’s goal scoring problem. Playing mostly at inside-left, wearing the number ten shirt, Gilzean had a tremendous shot and a great finishing prowess, plus heading ability for which he became famed. He was able to spring high above defenders and was described in Dundee’s European Cup quarter-final Anderlecht match programme in 1963 as ‘the best header in Scotland.’
Gille’s first hat-trick for The Dee came before the end of his debut season in the penultimate match at Dens against Stirling Albion and the following season saw Gilzean start in fine scoring form when he hammered home four hat-tricks in the first month of the campaign. By the end of the season, he had scored thirty-two goals in forty-two appearances and with the emergence of young stars such as Gilzean, Ian Ure, Andy Penman and Hugh Robertson gave rise to optimism that something special was about to happen at Dens Park.
And special it did as Dundee brought home the Scottish League Flag for the first time in their history and the 1961/62 season was also the season in which Gillie really showed his class. Dundee’s eighty goal league campaign saw them triumphantly finish as Champions with Gilzean scoring twenty-four goals in twenty-nine league games and included in those were two goals against St. Johnstone on the title winning day at Muirton.
For Dundee fans of a certain generation, whenever the Dark Blues tackle Rangers, thoughts go back to one of the great one man demolitions of the Ibrox giants.
That happened on November 11th 1961, when Alan Gilzean was part of the Dundee line-up which recorded an extraordinary 5-1 win over their hosts and Gillie emerged as the star of the game when he notched four goals to really ram home Dundee’s title credentials. It really was a Remembrance Day for Dundee fans to remember but with rumours circulating that the game had been postponed due to thick fog and the police turning back Dundee fans at Glasgow’s Buchanan Street station, many Dundee fans missed Dundee’s greatest ever league result.
Season 1962/63 would also be another momentous season for Dundee as their brilliant European Champions Cup campaign took them all the way to the semi-finals, spearheaded by Gilzean’s brilliant run of scoring form of nine goals in eight games in the Continent’s premier tournament.
He terrorised the back lines of some of Europe’s best sides and hit hat-tricks against Cologne and Sporting Lisbon and a brace against Anderlecht in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels. In the semi-final against Serie A side A.C. Milan, Gilzean came in for some pretty rough treatment from the Italians and was sent off in the second half of the second leg at Dens for retaliation but not before he headed the only goal in a 1-0 win.
That season finished with forty-one goals from forty-three games and Gilzean set himself a personal milestone in December 1962, when he netted seven in a 10-2 massacre of Queen of the South. Equalling Bert Juliussen’s club record of seven goals in one match set in 1947, it was just one short of Jimmy McGrory’s record of eight goals in one game for Celtic in 1928.
Despite Gillie’s fantastic goal scoring record, he was incredibly not yet a full internationalist although he had been capped three times at Under-23 level and had made two of his three appearances for the Scottish League side. That was to change in 1963/64 when Gilzean won the first of his twenty-two caps for Scotland when he made his debut for Scotland against Norway in November 1963.
He won five full caps for Scotland while at Dundee and in April 1964 would become a hero in the dark blue of Scotland as well as Dundee when he scored the winner against England at Hampden in a 1-0 win with the first of his twelve international goals. Gilzean then scored twice for the national side against West Germany in Hanover in May and those goals would be the last scored for Scotland by a Dundee player for thirty-nine years.
Domestically, Dundee reached the Scottish Cup Final as Gilzean set a new club record of fifty-two goals in a season in forty-eight games. He scored nine goals on ‘The Road to Hampden’ including a hat-trick against Brechin City in the second round and he netted two in the semi-final win over Second Division Kilmarnock at Ibrox.
Two late goals from Rangers denied Gilzean a cup winners’ medal as Rangers completed the Treble and he would score just five more times for Dundee as his high profile strikes had brought him to the attention of England’s leading clubs who would come calling for his talent.
In December 1964, a new Scottish record fee of £72, 500 from Tottenham Hotspur was enough to prize Gillie away from Dens and his move to London brought him more success as he won the F.A. Cup, League Cup and U.E.F.A. Cup while forging potent partnerships up front with first Jimmy Greaves and then Martin Chivers.
The money from Tottenham was the highest transfer received by the Club at that point and it is frightening to think how much Gilzean would be worth in today’s transfer market.
Gilzean is revered as much today by the Dundee support as he was in the glory years of the early Sixties with a fanzine named ‘Eh Mind O’ Gillie’ and in 2003 he was voted as the Club’s most valuable player from the Championship winning side.
In April 2009, Gilzean was inducted into the inaugural Dundee F.C. Hall of Fame, when the award was accepted on his behalf by the son Ian who himself made twenty-five appearances for the Club in the 1992/93 season and also scored in a memorable win over Rangers and his father had done almost thirty years previous.
In 2010, Gilzean was nominated for Scottish Television’s Scotland’s Greatest Team and as top goal scorer in all competitions four years running from 1960/61 to 1963/64, it is probably safe to say that his 169 goal haul for Dundee will never be bettered.
A true Dundee legend in every sense of the word, we may never see his goal scoring like again. ‘All Hail Gillie – the King of Dens Park.’
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish League Champions: 1961/62
European Cup semi-final: 1962/63
Scottish Cup runner-up: 1964
Scotland full caps: 5
Scottish League caps: 3
Scotland Under-23 caps: 3
Dundee F.C. Hall of Fame: Legends Award 2009
League: 134, 113 goals
Scottish Cup: 15, 15 goals
League Cup: 24, 26 goals
Europe: 8, 9 goals
Other: 9, 6 goals
Totals: 190, 169 goals