From ball boy to net boy, to the captain with the most winners’ medals in Dundee’s history, Alfie Boyd can truly lay claim to the worthy mantle of Dundee legend having played for Dundee for six successful years in the late forties and early fifties.
Born in the city on October 22nd 1920, Alfred Boyd started his connection with the Club as a ball boy in the Roaring Twenties before being promoted to the prestigious position of net boy. With football coursing through his veins however, he was destined to become a player and the first signs of his exceptional talent came when he played in a 1-0 victory for the Scottish Schoolboys over their English counterparts in Newcastle in 1935.
Within three years of that cap, Alfie started his senior career not in his home town but up the river in Perth when he signed for St. Johnstone but like so many players of his era, his career was curtailed by the Second World War, when he joined the R.A.F. and was posted to South Africa.
At the end of the War, Boyd was stationed at Leuchars before he was demobbed, allowing him to rekindle his football career with the Saints but in February 1947, he was tempted to join Dundee by the Dark Blues managing/director George Anderson who parted with a Dens Park club record fee of £4000 to secure his services.
Within weeks of Alfie joining, Dundee chalked up back to back club record 10-0 wins over Alloa and Dunfermline and by the end of the season were ‘B’ Division Champions for the second year in a row. This time Dundee were allowed back into the top tier with promotion being resumed after the War for the first time and The Dark Blues were back in the big time.
In his six years at Dens, Alfie would miss only six games which is a remarkable record and is a testimony to his peak physical fitness. As a centre half or wing half, he formed part of the famous half-back line of Gallagher, Cowie and Boyd and played no fewer than 235 games for the Dee, scoring twenty-seven times.
Season 1948/49 was the nearly season in so many ways as Dundee reached the semi-final of both the League Cup and Scottish Cup and finished runners-up in the League Championship after a last day 4-0 collapse at Falkirk, where a win would have guaranteed the League Flag.
Those defeats hurt Alfie and in a newspaper interview in 1950 he stated, ‘We had to win our last four games to be Champions but we were inclined to be too much on edge. In our last match with Falkirk at Brockville, a win would have made us Champions, but everything went wrong. We were all over them in the first half, but when Alec Stott failed with a penalty close on half time, we felt that the fates were against us.
We got into the semi final of both the League Cup and Scottish Cup and I think our defeat by Clyde in the replay of the Scottish was as hard a blow as any. We had gone to Tynecastle in the round before the semi and won handsomely. I had visions of a Cup medal, the one thing we all dream of winning, but Clyde put an end to that dream.”
It was during this time that Alfie won his only international honour playing for the Scottish League against the English League in 1949 and at the start of the following season took both the Scottish and English Trainers and Players coaching course, becoming the first player to complete both in Britain. While undertaking the Scottish certificate, he studied on the course with such luminaries as Jock Stein, Willie Ormond and Reggie Smith and Sammy Kean who would both be part of Dundee’s backroom staff when they won the League in 1962.
In an effort to win their first honour since 1910, Dundee splashed out a world record transfer fee for Billy Steel in September 1950. Dundee then finished in third place, behind Rangers on goal average and Alfie surprisingly finished Dundee’s top goal scorer that season with eight goals before also becoming the Dundee F.C. Cricket team’s top batsman in the summer scoring forty runs in match against Forfarshire Cricket Club.
It wasn’t long however before Alfie achieved his dream of a winners’ medal when in October 1951, Dundee ended a forty-one year wait for silverware with a 3-2 League Cup Final win over Rangers at Hampden.
In front of 92, 325 at the national stadium, Dundee were leading 2-1 with only minutes left on the clock but unfortunately for The Dee, Rangers equalised in controversial fashion when Dundee keeper Bill Brown looked to have been fouled by future manager Willie Thornton.
From the restart however, Dundee won a free kick deep inside the Rangers half and with only thirty seconds remaining, Billy Steel is reputed to have said to his skipper, ‘I’ll place it on your head Alfie’, and did just that as Boyd headed home the winner.
It was one of the most dramatic finishes ever seen at Hampden and Boyd held aloft the glittering League Cup before 30, 000 ecstatic Dundonians in the crowd.
Later that season Alfie led Dundee back to Hampden for the Scottish Cup Final in April but were to be disappointed as Motherwell ran out 4-0 winners but in October 1952, Dundee made it three trips to Hampden in a year to defend their League Cup trophy.
This time they faced ‘B’ Division Kilmarnock, and two goals from Bobby Flavell was enough to let Alfie get the chance to lift the trophy for a second time as Dundee became the first side to retain the League Cup.
At the end of the following season, Dundee went on a marathon two month tour of South Africa as part of the Club’s sixtieth anniversary celebrations and at the end of the tour, Dundee granted Boyd permission to remain in South Africa. Alfie had enjoyed his time in South Africa during the War where he met his wife and now wished to return to her homeland where his daughter was born and signed for the Marist Brothers Club as player/coach.
Aflie turned down the chance to rejoin Dundee in 1957 as by then he was involved in the in the South African gold mining industry. He would go on to manage Durban City and manage a Sir Stanley Matthews Invitation XI during one of the Englishman’s many visits to the continent and he also became a selector for the South African F.A.
Alfie however kept in touch with many of his team mates from Dens and in 1993 returned to the city to take part in Dundee’s centenary celebrations and catch up with many old friends and colleagues.
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish League Cup winner: 1951/52, 1952/53
Scottish League Championship runners-up: 1948/49
Scottish Cup runners-up: 1952
Scottish League B Division champions: 1946/47
Scottish League cap: 1
League: 169, 18 goals
Scottish Cup: 21, 3 goals
League Cup: 44, 6 goals
Totals: 235, 27 goals