Alex Hamilton had a party piece where he played keepie-up with a sixpence before flicking it up and catching it in his pocket and he was the joker, the extrovert of Dundee’s 1962 League Championship winning team. More than that however, Alex Hamilton was a wonderful footballer, one of the best full backs of his generation and with twenty-four appearances for the full Scotland side, he is the Dark Blues’ most capped player in the Club’s history.
Alexander William Hamilton was born in the West Lothian mining town of Armadale on April 5th 1936 and after being schooled in nearby Fauldhouse, he joined local juvenile side Westrigg Bluebell where he started his footballing career playing at outside-right.
‘Hammy’ as he became known at Dundee, joined the Dens Park side on March 6th 1957 despite missing a penalty when the Dark Blue manager Willie Thornton was watching. He had been working as an insurance agent at the behest of his mother but he was destined for great things in the dark blue of Dundee and Scotland.
Hammy didn’t have long to wait for his first team debut as just five moths after putting pen to paper on Sandeman Street, he started in a 4-2 defeat at Hearts in the League Cup on August 31st. When his first five appearances all ended in defeat with the loss of twenty-two goals, Hamilton would hardly have envisaged that a League medal and a European Cup semi were only a few years away but by the end of the season, he had made twenty-one appearances at right-back in place of the injured Hugh Reid.
Hammy was a favourite with the fans and popular in the dressing room and his team mates all talk about him with fondness. He was instantly recognisable with his snappy fair-haired crew cut and a cheeky impish smile that was infectious to everyone around him.
At 5ft 7in, he wasn’t the best defender in the air but Hammy’s skills lay in becoming one of the first over lapping full backs in Scotland, no doubt helped by his education at outside-right with the Bluebells. With an abundance of pace, he is remembered by Dundee and international team mate Ian Ure as ‘a player who oozed talent and flair and was as lively a character as you’ll ever meet’.
Bobby Wishart describes Hammy as ‘a livewire, a joker and a trickster’ and says that Hamilton’s gang of Hugh Robertson, Ian Ure and Alan Gilzean were always up to something while Gillie himself calls him ‘a great character and an unbelievable guy’.
Off the park, Hammy used to love winding his team mates up, particularly Bobby Cox about how many international caps he had compared to himself and on the pitch, he was often heard to shout to the Dundee fans in the south enclosure, ‘here comes the Hammy magic’, throughout his 359 appearances for The Dee.
The undoubted highlight for Hamilton at Dens came in the 1961/62 season when he was an ever present as Bob Shankly’s side lifted the Scottish League Championship trophy and the following season played in all eight ties as Dundee shocked Europe on the way to the Champions’ Cup semi-final.
During the title winning season, Hammy made his first international debut when he played for the Scottish League against a star studded Italian League side at Hampden and the same month made his full international debut against Wales in a British International Championship match.
The Daily Record described Hamilton as ‘the international find of the season’ and on November 29th 1961, he was one of three Dundee players who along with Ian Ure and Hugh Robertson, lined up against Czechoslovakia in a World Cup play-off match in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels. It was the only occasion in the twentieth century that three Dundee players lined up together in the same Scotland side and in total, Hammy made thirty-four appearances in the dark blue of Scotland, twenty-four of those at full international level, a record for a Dundee player.
Interestingly, Hamilton lined up against England on seven occasions, three times with the Scottish League and four with the full side and was never on the losing team. He lined up against Bobby Charlton, (who made his Manchester United debut in a 5-1 friendly defeat against Dundee at Dens in 1956) on a number of occasions and told Jim Hendry in his Dundee Greats book that after one match at Hampden, a Scotland player shouted to Alf Ramsey, ‘if you’re looking for Bobby Charlton, you’d best check in our hamper as he might still be in Hammy’s back pocket!’
In May 1964, Hamilton was a team mate of Charlton’s when they lined up together for the Rest of Europe against Scandinavia in Denmark and Hammy came on as a second half substitute to replace the Czechoslovakian right-back Bomba. On the bench he sat next to Eusebio and the star studded European side which won the match 4-2, also included Jim Baxter, Dennis Law Jimmy Greaves, Lev Yashin and Paul van Himst, who Hammy had lined up against in Dundee’s European Cup quarter-final tie against Anderlecht in 1963.
A month before turning out for the Rest of Europe, Hamilton played in the 1964 Scottish Cup Final against Rangers where The Dee lost 3-1 thanks to two late Rangers’ goals and that same season, saw Hamilton score his only goal for Dundee when he netted the winner in a 4-3 win at home to Falkirk four days before Christmas.
Hamilton played for The Dee for eleven years and captained Dundee in the latter stages of his career at Dens but the flamboyant full-backs talents were not restricted to football. Hamilton was also a noted singer and was the front man of a band comprising of Dundee team-mates Hugh Robertson, Andy Penman, Alex Stuart, Kenny Cameron and future Scotland boss Craig Brown. They called themselves ‘Hammy and the Hamsters’ and although they released a single, its success was restricted to the local Dundee area.
Hamilton left Dundee in 1967 and had a spell in South Africa playing for Durban United and managing East London United. He returned to the city where he managed Junior side Dundee Violet and returned to Dens Park in 1988 to run the Club’s lottery before becoming a match day hospitality host with full-back partner and friend Bobby Cox in 1989.
Alex sadly died in 1993 aged just fifty-seven but his legacy lives on at Dens Park with a hospitality lounge named in his honour and in April 2010, he was inducted in the Dundee F.C. Hall of Fame.
With his Championship-winning team mates Andy Penman, Bobby Cox, Gordon Smith and Hugh Robertson also sadly in the ‘High Stand’, there is no doubt that the ebullient Alex Hamilton will still be at the centre at all the fun, telling stories and cracking jokes.
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish League Champions: 1961/62
European Cup semi-final: 1962/63
Scottish Cup runner-up: 1964
Scotland full caps: 24
Scottish League caps: 8
Scotland Trial International appearances: 2
Rest of Europe appearance: 1
Dundee F.C. Hall of Fame: Legends Award 2010
League: 261, 1 goal
Scottish Cup: 22
League Cup: 55
Totals: 259, 1 goal