When Bob Shankly secured Bobby Seith’s signature for Dundee in the summer of 1960 for a fee of £7500, it was a case of ‘coming home’ for the Burnley artistic right half, having been brought up in Monifieth and signed for the Lancashire side as a sixteen year old from the local juvenile side.
Having spent eleven years at Turf Moor, where he had just won a League Championship title, Bobby became part of the formidable half back line of Bobby Wishart, Ian Ure and Seith which was the backbone of Dundee’s success in the early sixties where The Dee won the Scottish League Championship in 1962 and then reach the European Cup semi-finals against A.C. Milan were Bobby had the honour of skippering the side.
Born in Coatbridge on March 9th 1932, Robert ‘Bobby’ Seith was a seasoned twenty-eight year old professional when he joined up at Dens as Bob Shankly tried to add some experienced heads to the promising youngsters such as Gilzean, Penman and Ure who were emerging through ranks.
Bobby made his debut in the opening game of the 1960-61 season in a 5-0 home win over Raith Rovers in the League Cup but a tenth place finish nine months later in the league gave little clue to the glory that was just around the corner.
His debut season saw the skilful Seith play forty-two competitive matches and in his first four seasons at Dens, he would never play less than forty games for the Club. In his second season, Bobby would be ever present, playing forty-one times and was a key figure as Dundee went on to win the Scottish League Championship for the first time in their history.
It would be a record breaking season in more ways than one for The Dee as they would set a Club record of ten successive wins from September 23rd 1961 to November 25th 1961 and would go a Club record nineteen games unbeaten in the league and twenty games in all competitions on the way to winning the League Flag.
It was during this spell that Bobby scored one of his two goals in the Championship season with a crucial strike that went a long way to seeing the league trophy come to Dens.
Having recorded a famous 5-1 win at Ibrox on November 11th 1961, Dundee were firm favourites to pick up two points at home to Raith Rovers the following week but with twenty-seven minutes left found themselves 4-2 down to the men from Fife.
Roared on by the 15, 000 crowd, two cracking shots by Bobby Wishart and Bobby Seith levelled the scores at 4-4 and just two minutes from time, Dens erupted when Gordon Smith made it 5-4 with a dramatic winner.
The win signalled Dundee’s intentions to challenge for the title and had Bobby not equalised, their title credentials would have been seriously challenged. Those two matches in November 1961 against Raith and Rangers are listed by Bobby as key in Dundee’s Championship challenge and high among his highlights at Dens.
One of his other highlights is of course the last day of the season at Perth when Dundee beat St. Johnstone 3-0 to give Bobby his second league title in three years.
‘We required only a draw for the Championship’ says Bobby in the Dundee Champions of Scotland book in 2003, ‘but we wanted to win the title in style, which we did winning 3-0 and at the same time producing one of our best performances.
When I reflect on these days, it is not so much individual performances I recall but the camaraderie and team spirit that was present both on and off the field. If you were looking for the secret of our success, this would be high on the list. Of course there was a lot of skill and talent in the team but it was that team spirit which pulled us through when we were a bit off key.’
The following season, that team spirit, allied to the skill and talent took Dundee to the European Cup semi-finals in a run which saw Cologne, Sporting Club of Portugal and Anderlecht dispatched on route.
Bobby played in all eight games in the campaign and in the semi-final against A.C. Milan was given the honour of being captain for both legs in the absence of the injured Bobby Cox. Seith therefore led Dundee out in the San Siro against a side which included nine full internationalists and with double Brazilian World Cup winner Altafini, Cesare Maldini, Giovanni Trappatoni and Italian golden boy Gianni Rivera in their ranks defeated The Dee 5-1.
Milan were a top side but according to Bobby not as good as Cologne or Anderlecht. Indeed there was every indication that Dundee had been cheated for the Spanish referee was found to have accepted extravagant gifts from the Italians and was subsequently banned on various other charges of bribery.
Dundee did however have the consolation of a second leg win, when Bobby again had the armband as Alan Gilzean gave The Dee a 1-0 win.
Twelve months later, Dundee were again on the glory trail as they reached the Scottish Cup Final against Rangers at Hampden in April 1964 but it was a runners-up medal for Bobby as the Light Blues went on to win 3-1 with two injury time goals.
By then the Championship side had already begun to break up and in February 1965 Bobby played his last game for Dundee at the scene of his greatest Dark Blue moment in Perth where The Dee went down 1-0 to St. Johnstone.
During his time at Dens, Bobby was unfortunate not to gain any full caps for Scotland as he was in the frame to be picked for a World Cup qualifying tie but a broken wrist put paid to that. He did however make one appearance for the Scottish League against the full Scottish side in 1962 when these matches were used as ‘trial’ internationals but the full honours never came despite his good form at Dens.
Upon retiring however Bobby remained at Dens as part of the coaching staff under new manager Bobby Ancell, having gained coaching certificates from both the English and Scottish F.A.s but it was not long before his qualities were realised elsewhere and Scott Symon tempted him to Ibrox to fulfil a similar role with Rangers.
Bobby however resigned his position in 1967 in protest at the unceremonious sacking of Symon who was replaced by future cup winning Dundee manager Davie White and he headed back down to Lancashire to take up his first managerial post at Preston North End.
Bobby left Deepdale in 1970 and following a short spell in charge of the Scottish national youth team took up the reigns at Hearts where he stayed for five years before leaving the game for good to set up a chiropodist business in Broughty Ferry having trained in that particular branch of medicine while at Burnley.
Despite winning the league at Burnley in 1959/60, Bobby was denied a league medal at the time due to a dispute with the then chairman Bob Lord which had subsequently prompted his move to Dens but in October 1999 was belatedly presented with a medal in a public ceremony prior to a home match against Bristol City.
One of the gentlemen of the game who was never booked, Bobby is listed on Burnley’s website as one of their all time greats and holds a similar place in the history of Dundee F.C. as one of the men to make Dundee, Champions of Scotland.
With a passing game ahead of its time, Bobby will always be remembered as one of the lynch pins who supplied the ammunition for the likes of Gilzean and Cousin and co. and is a Dark Blue legend in is own right who is regularly welcomed back to various functions at the Club.
Honours at Dundee:
European Cup semi-final: 1962/63
Scottish Cup runner-up: 1964
Scottish League appearance: 1
League: 134, 5 goals
Scottish Cup: 6
League Cup: 13
Totals: 197, 5 goals