Hugh, better known to many as ‘Shug’ or ‘Shuggie’ was a key member of the Dundee squad who brought the League Flag to Dens in 1962 and reached the European Cup semi the following year and in a Dundee career spanning eight years, would go on to play 292 times for The Dee.
Robertson’s appearances make him twenty-first on Dundee’s all time list and curiously he is also currently number twenty-one in Dundee’s all time goal scoring chart with sixty-one goals and he was a constant threat from his outside-left position on the wing.
Hugh was born in Auchenleck on November 29th 1939 and he played his early football for the local side Auchenleck Talbot. It was from Talbot that Hugh was signed for Dundee at the age of seventeen in 1957 by the then Dundee manager Willie Thornton and made his debut two weeks before his eighteenth birthday later that year in a 5-0 win at home to Partick Thistle in which he managed to get on the score sheet.
Originally a miner in his native Ayrshire, Hugh initially signed part-time at Dens, combining his football career with his mining job but that soon changed to full time after a good impression on his goal scoring debut.
By 1960 Bob Shankly had joined the club and the Championship side was beginning to take shape. Two years later of course Dundee enjoyed their finest hour when they lifted the Scottish League Championship for the first time and Hugh Robertson was very much an important part of that success.
Standing at 5ft 9in tall, with short dark hair parted on the left side, Hugh, who regularly wore the number 11 shirt, would miss just one match in the title winning year, scoring seven goals in forty appearances including the fourth in a 4-1 derby win over Dundee United.
He would also be responsible for setting up many a goal throughout the title winning year, including the goal which sealed the win at Muirton on the last day when he squared the ball across the eighteen yard line from the left wing, for Andy Penman to fire an unstoppable shot via the crossbar into the St. Johnstone net.
In was during that Championship season that Robertson would make his one and only appearance for the full international side and it was a match in which the Scotland side would feature three Dundee players in the starting line up for the only time in the twentieth century.
Helped no doubt by the Club’s climb to the top and by the recent 5-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox, Hugh was joined by Ian Ure and Alex Hamilton in the Scotland side which took the field against Czechoslovakia in November 1961 in a play off match to qualify for the 1962 World Cup Finals in Chile. It was however an ultimately disappointing night for Shug and the Scots as they lost out to the Czechs 4-2 after extra time in the Heysel Stadium in Brussel.
Unfortunately for Hugh he was one of five players dropped for the next Scotland match and he was never again to play for the full international side again.
Hugh did however win two Under-23 caps against England and Wales in 1962 but can consider himself unlucky to never to win another full cap. He was never given a proper chance to recreate his club form at international level and he suffered from the fact that there were so many good wingers in Scotland at the time with the likes of Wille Henderson and Jimmy Johnstone regularly filling the wider roles throughout the Sixties.
While his international impact for the national side was limited, it was anything but at club level, as Hugh would feature in Dundee’s run to the European Cup semi-final the year after winning the league as The Dee took Europe by storm.
Hugh played in five matches in that fabulous run and in the famous first match at home to second favourites Cologne, he scored the third goal in the twelfth minute in an 8-1 win.
Missing the first leg in Lisbon against Sporting, Shug returned to help overturn a first leg deficit at Dens to help reach quarter finals and he was then able to overcome any lingering disappointment from that Scotland defeat in Heysel when he returned to the same ground with Dundee against Belgian champions Anderlecht and help Dundee secure a stunning 4-1 win.
Hugh also played in the 2-1 second leg win at Dens but injury ruled him out of both semi final legs against A.C. Milan but he would feature in one more European tie for the Dark Blues in late 1964 in a European Cup Winners Cup second round tie, against Fairs Cup holders, Real Zaragoza from Spain.
Shug lined up for the 2-2 first leg at Dens and in the second leg he gave Dundee the lead before Zaragoza fought back with two goals to give the Spaniards a 4-3 aggregate win.
Dundee had qualified for the Cup Winners’ Cup that season by virtue of reaching the 1964 Scottish Cup Final. In what became known as ‘The Bert Slater Final’, Dundee they lost out narrowly 3-1 to League Champions Rangers and as they had qualified for the European Cup, Dundee were entered into U.E.F.A.’s secondary competition. Robertson lined up in his usual left wing position on that sunny cup final day at Hampden and could only watch in disbelief as Rangers scored two injury time goals to lift the trophy.
Less than a year after that cup final, Bob Shankly left Dens to take up the reigns at Easter Road and within two months, new manager Bobby Ancell allowed Shuggie to join Dunfermline for a £10, 000 fee. There was no doubt he was allowed to leave Dundee prematurely and he would come back and haunt his former Club on several occasions.
While at East End Park, Robertson won the Scottish Cup in 1968 when The Pars overcame Hearts 3-1 in the Final and the following year made up for missing out on a European semi with Dundee by playing in the Cup Winners’ Cup semi final against eventual winners Slovan Bratislava who knocked The Pars out 2-1 on aggregate.
Robertson left Dunfermline to join Arbroath in 1971 but after just forty matches for the Gayfield side was forced to retire on medical grounds and took up the post of coach.
He returned to Dens a few years later as first a coach and then chief scout and on the eve of Dundee’s Scottish Cup tie away to Celtic in 2009, Celtic manager Gordon Strachan recalled his fondness to his time at Dens and mentioned what a fabulous coach Hugh Robertson was and how he ’picked up so many good habits’ from him.
On the fortieth anniversary of Dundee’s Championship win, Alan Gilzean remembered Robertson as ‘a little terrier, who had lots of skill, was very tricky and could turnon a sixpence.’
Hugh Robertson is a legend at Dens Park and not just because his name is comes first in the list of players in the famous Hector Nicol, “Dundee Song” but because he was a fabulous player who will be fondly remembered by all who saw him wear the Dark Blue with pride in the Club’s most successful era.
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish Cup runner-up: 1964
Scotland full caps: 1
Scotland Under 23 caps: 2
League: 223, 48
Scottish Cup: 14, 3 goals
League Cup: 39, 8 goals
Europe: 7, 2 goals
Totals: 292, 61 goals