Bobby Waddell’s six years at Dens saw him face the stiffest of competition for a starting place in the Dundee’s forward line, up against the likes of Alan Gilzean, Alan Cousin, Andy Penman, Charlie Cooke and Kenny Cameron but his strike rate of 1.91 goals a game made him a valuable member of squad during the golden years of the early sixties. As understudy to the legendary Gillie, Waddell played his part in Dundee’s league championship win, coming in and scoring at a vital time and he earned his medal as one of the elite group of fifteen who played in the victorious 1961/62 campaign.
Born in Kirkcaldy just two days after Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, Bobby signed for Dundee twenty years later from juvenile side St Andrews Swifts and made his debut just a few months after joining The Dee. With the Dark Blues unable to qualify from their League Cup section, manager Willie Thornton decided to give youth a chance, giving Alan Gilzean his debut on August 22nd and the following week gave Bobby his debut in the final group game at home to Rangers.
The youngster repaid his manager’s faith with a goal in the 3-2 defeat and therefore kept his place for the opening game of the league campaign the week after, playing up front alongside Alan Cousin and scored again in a 3-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
A few weeks later however, Bobby had a new manager after Thornton resigned due to his wife’s ill health and Bob Shankly became his new boss after joining from Third Lanark. Shankly only picked Waddell just once before the end of the season in which he scored in a 2-2 draw at Dunfermline, meaning the end of his first year in senior football, had seen him score three goals in four games.
By the start of the 1960/61 season, Alan Gilzean had completed his National Service and started the campaign up front with Alan Cousin but when Cousin was injured, Waddell came in and scored alongside Gillie in League Cup wins over Ayr United and Aberdeen. Gilzean and Cousin however established themselves as the first choice partnership, scoring thirty-two and seventeen goals respectively but Waddell chipped in with six goals in twelve games when he got his chance.
Gilzean and Cousin kept up their goalscoring exploits at the start of 1961/62 season as Dundee became genuine title contenders, meaning Bobby couldn’t get in the side but by March the Dark Blues chances of wining the League Flag had started to slip away. A run of five games without a win saw Rangers overhaul Dundee at the top of the table and go three points clear and on March 14th, Dundee faced the Ibrox side at Dens which the press labelled as a ‘last chance saloon’ for The Dee.
Gilzean had scored four goals at Ibrox in Dundee’s remarkable 5-1 win in November but on the morning of the return fixture, the Dark Blues received a blow when Gillie was bed-ridden with flu. This meant that Waddell was to come in for his first game of the season and acquitted himself very well as The Dee stopped the rot of the previous four defeats on the trot and their title hopes were still alive thanks to the 0-0 draw.
Three days later, Gilzean had failed to recover and Waddell kept his place in the side and having put a brake on the slump midweek, now got back to winning ways with a 3-2 win over Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy.
Rangers however retained their three point lead after a 7-1 blitz at Falkirk but the following week the pendulum started to swing Dundee’s way when they got some help from an unexpected source. At a wet and windy Dens Park, Dundee beat Hibs 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Bobby Waddell while Rangers lost 1-0 at home to Dundee United. The news that United were ahead at half-time seemed to inspire a lacklustre Dundee as seven minutes into the second half Alan Cousin burst through and after initially failing to connect, Bobby Waddell bundled the ball into the net.
That proved to be the winner and when it was discovered that the Ibrox scoreline had remained unchanged, there was a great cheer from the home dressing room, while on the terracing a huge roar erupted from the departing fans and the ball boys danced for joy when the tannoy relayed the good news.
The following week, Dundee regained top spot with Rangers playing in the Scottish Cup, when they ran out 3-2 winners at Stirling Albion. Gilzean was back after his three game absence and scored on his return, partnering Waddell and Cousin up front with Penman dropping out.
In his four games, the marauding Bobby Waddell had done well but for the nail biting title run-in, manager Shankly reverted to his battle hardened old guard. This meant that Bobby was back on the sidelines as The Dee became Champions of Scotland but he had more than played his part with that crucial goal against Hibs on a day that was pivotal in the Championship.
Winning the League meant qualifying for the European Cup and in preparation for that, Dundee travelled to America to take part in the annual New York Tourney. Normally competed for by the League runners-up, the SFA had nominated Dundee when Rangers had looked odds on and after clawing the Gers back to clinch the Flag, Dundee crossed the Atlantic as Champions with Bobby Waddell in the party.
Bobby watched the first few games from the bench but on June 10th came into the side against Palermo and got onto the scoresheet in the 1-1 draw with the Italian club. In the next match six days later, Bobby scored again in the 3-2 defeat to FC America of Brazil but the competition proved to be the perfect preparation for the European Cup.
Dundee would eventually reach the semi-finals of the Champions Cup but Bobby didn’t feature in any of the eight ties. He did however regularly come into the side in the aftermath of the European nights and the 1962/63 season saw him score five goals in ten games to keep up his impressive average.
The following year Dundee reached the Scottish Cup Final and although Waddell didn’t play on the big day, he did score five times in five games on the ‘Road to Hampden’.
That year Waddell get more of a chance, making thirty-nine appearances and yet despite scoring an terrific twenty times, and scoring five more goals than the prolific Alan Cousin, he still finished fourth in Dundee’s top goal scoring charts behind Alan Gilzean (52), Andy Penman (30) and Kenny Cameron (22), who scored a memorable goal in the Cup Final.
Bobby started his final year at Dens in fine form, scoring on the first day of the season at home to Dundee United in the League Cup, then scoring a hat-trick against Motherwell in a 6-0 League Cup win at Dens and in the second league match of the campaign, scored again against the Arabs in a 4-1 win at Tannadice.
That victory over United saw sixteen year old Jocky Scott score his first goals for Dundee with a brace, having made his debut in that Motherwell cup tie a fortnight before and in December, Bobby received yet more competition for a place when Charlie Cooke joined from Aberdeen.
Before ‘The Bonnie Prince’ joined however, Bobby lined up against Real Zaragoza in the first leg of the European Cup Winners’ Cup tie at Dens but tt would prove however to be his last appearance for Dundee. After a bright start to the season, Waddell faded from the side and in March was sold to Blackpool for £10,000 not long before Shankly himself left to join Hibs.
After two years on the seaside, Waddell moved to Bradford Park Avenue before returning to Scotland to play for first East Fife and then Montrose. In later years, ‘Deedle’ as he was nicknamed, would play for and then manage Tayport when they were an amateur side and he led them to a famous 5-0 Gray Trophy Final win over Auchterhouse in 1978.
That win is a triumph which is celebrated on the south banks of the Tay but it his part in the League Championship win with The Dee which is most fondly remembered on the north side. He scored the same amount of goals for Dundee as Billy Steel and more than the likes of popular forwards Jim Hamilton, Nacho Novo, Juan Sara and James Grady with his one goal in particular on a wet and windy day fifty years ago earning him iconic status as one of Dundee’s Champions of Scotland.
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish League Champions: 1961/62
League: 60, 27 goals
Scottish Cup: 6, 6 goals
League Cup: 13, 10 goals
Other: 6, 2 goals
Totals: 86, 45 goals