Hall of Fame - Hamilton
When all of your first five appearances in a Dundee jersey end in defeat along with the loss of 22 goals, few right-backs could envisage going on to win a League Championship medal and 24 full international caps.
This, though was Alex Hamilton, who, at his peak in 1964, declared himself, Mohammed Ali-style, to be “The Greatest” right-back in Europe – a claim not without foundation as that very year he appeared for the Rest of Europe against Scandinavia.
Like many other young men in the 1950s, Hammy was a ‘Brylcream boy’ until a tour to the USA in 1959 saw him adopt his trademark crew-cut hairstyle. And soon his pace, self-confidence and the ability to sell dummies like a salesman in a tailor’s shop made him one of the first overlapping full-backs in the country.
Born in the mining village of Armadale, West Lothian, Hamilton played for junior club Westrigg Bluebell as an outside-right, which probably explains his ability to race down the wing and put in telling crosses for Alan Cousin and Alan Gilzean on turning senior at Dens. By the time he was recommended to Dundee manager Willie Thornton, Alex had moved back to right-half and after signing professional forms in March 1957, the astute Dens boss set about converting the 20-year-old into a future international full-back.
In August 1957, he made his debut in a League Cup tie against Hearts at Tynecastle. Dundee lost 4-2 but a confident Hammy assured all who would listen that he had played well in defence! Initially, he found it hard to dislodge the dependable Hugh Reid and it was another four months before an injury to Reid gave the youngster another chance against Airdrieonians at Broomfield.
Dundee went down 7-1 and although there were further reversals against Aberdeen (1-2), Raith Rovers (0-4) and Hearts (0-5), Willie Thornton kept faith and it was not long before Hammy was a first-team regular. Soon the formidable full-back partnership of Alex Hamilton and Bobby Cox was in place and in 1961-62, Hammy was an ever-present as Dundee went on to win the Scottish League Championship for the first and only time in their history.
In November 1961, Alex made his first international debut when he played for the Scottish League against a star-studded Italian League side at Hampden. He would make another 33 appearances in the dark blue of Scotland, twenty-four of those at full international level, a record for a Dundee player. Interestingly, he played against England at League and full International level on seven occasions and never finished on the losing side.
The following season, the right-back was a key man as the Dark Blues stunned the footballing world by eliminating Cologne, Sporting Lisbon and Anderlecht to reach the European Cup semi-finals, where they fell to Italian giants AC Milan. In 1963-64, the Hammy influence was clear as high-scoring Dundee went all the way to the Scottish Cup Final only to lose to Rangers. Five months later, Hammy - by then team captain - got his revenge as he inspired Dundee to a 4-1 Dens win over Rangers, even finding time to conduct the Provost Road choir to the great delight of the fans.
Alex Hamilton was one of the Scottish game’s great characters. The purchase of a top of the range white Jaguar meant he would not go unnoticed and, after training, he was often to be seen beside his car, chatting to admirers beneath H. Samuel’s clock at the corner of Reform Street and High Street. The flamboyant full-back’s talents were not restricted to football. Along with team-mates Craig Brown, Andy Penman, Alex Stuart, Hugh Robertson and Kenny Cameron, he formed a pop group called “Hammy and the Hamsters”. Although a single was released it soon became clear that they would not make their living from music.
Sadly, Alex died in 1993 aged just 57, and, since then, his Dundee FC Championship-winning team-mates Andy Penman, Gordon Smith, Bobby Cox and Hugh Robertson have also passed on. However, you can be sure, that, wherever they are, the ebullient Hammy will still be at the centre of all the fun, telling stories and cracking jokes.