Johnny Pattillo played during a golden era at Dens, playing right in the heart of it as a prolific striker who won two winners medals and two runners-up medals as well as scoring a goal in the 1951 League Cup Final victory to cement his place in Dundee’s history.
Born in Aberdeen in 1923, Johnny joined his home town team in 1938 and like so many players of his generation had his career interrupted by the Second World War. He joined The Dons one year after their first Scottish Cup Final and left the year before they won the Scottish Cup in 1947 but success was just around the corner for him at Dens. Before he left Pittodrie however he did finish as The Dons top scorer and won the 1945/46 Southern League Cup against Rangers but the following summer moved down the east coast to Dundee to join George Anderson’s new look Dark Blues.
Anderson was building a side to get back into the top tier of Scottish football having been relegated on the eve of war and started the 1946/47 season as promotion favourites with their new £1000 forward Pattillo in their ranks. Dundee had in fact won the ‘B’ Division the season before but were denied promotion when the Scottish League deemed the season unofficial as so many players were still being demobbed from the armed forces and would have to do it all again if they wanted back into the top league. They justified their favourites by clinching the title for the second year running.
Johnny made his debut for The Dee on the opening day of the season in their first ever League Cup match in a sectional tie away to East Fife and was on the scoresheet in a 6-2 win. This high scoring Dark Blue performance was a sign of things to come for the new season as they went on to score five goals or more on sixteen occasions and scored four goals eight times.
These high scoring games included the two club record 10-0 wins over Alloa and Dunfermline in March but Johnny unfortunately missed both of those through injury. However his debut season saw him score twenty-two times on the way to winning the title and a further four in the Forfarshire Cup where the season ended on a high with a 5-0 home win over Dundee United in the Final and Johnny getting one of the goals.
In Dundee’s first season back in the big time Pattillo scored fifteen times on the way to a very respectable fourth placed finish. He improved that rate by two the following year as Dundee also improved their league placing by two but there was disappointment when a last day 4-1 collapse at Brockville meant a runners-up place in the League when a win over Falkirk would have given them the Championship.
Any hopes that the runners up spot could be improved on were dashed early the following season with a number of disappointing reverses and incredibly for Pattillo, having scored fifty-five goals in the last three seasons, he now went the whole of 1949/50 season without scoring at all as Dundee finished a disappointing sixth. They had failed to get out of their section in the League Cup and were knocked out in the first round of the Scottish Cup and so clearly something had to change the following year for Johnny and Dundee.
What did change therefore was one of the most audacious signings in Scottish football history as George Anderson persuaded superstar Billy Steel to join the Dark Blues for a world record fee of £24, 000. Inside-left Steel would join inside-right Pattillo in a new dynamic forward line, alongside former Hearts centre-forward Bobby Flavell who joined shortly afterwards and it wasn’t long before the trio shot Dundee to two Hampden cup final appearances in the same season.
The first of those appearances was in the League Cup Final of 1951 when Dundee won their first major silverware in forty-one years and it came after a 3-2 win over Rangers in one of the best finals the National Stadium has ever seen. Johnny scored in the 5-1 semi-final win over Motherwell at Ibrox but the real glory came for him in the Final when he scored the second to put Dundee 2-1 ahead.
Rangers had opened the scoring through Findlay on twenty minutes but the white shirted Dees drew level two minutes into the second half thanks to Bobby Flavell. From then on in, it was all Dundee as they turned on the style with Billy Steel spraying passes all over the park and they were rewarded on sixty-nine minutes when Pattillo ran on to a Flavell through ball and shot high past Brown in the Rangers goal.
It looked to all intents and purposes therefore as if Johnny had scored the winning goal in a cup final for The Dee until two minutes from the end when disaster struck and Rangers equalised.
Dundee were not to be outdone however and straight from the kick off they went straight up the park and scored much to the delight of the 30, 000 Dundonians in the crowd. From the restart, Steel was fouled inside the Rangers half and when he dusted himself down, he took the free kick himself and placed in straight onto the head of skipper Alfie Boyd, who nodded it into the net for the winner.
Dundee had won the Scottish League Cup and Johnny and his team mates were the toast of Tayside!
Dundee returned to Hampden just five months later when they appeared in their second final of the season but there was no joy this time in the Scottish Cup as Motherwell took the trophy back to Lanarkshire with a 4-0 win. Johnny played in the Final and all five matches on route scoring four times which included a brace against Wigtown in a 7-1 second round away win and the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Berwick at Dens in the next round.
The Final against Motherwell proved to be Johnny’s penultimate match for The Dee as the following week at Dens against Third Lanark in the final match of the season in the ‘A’ Division, Johnny made his last appearance in dark blue, unusually at right back!
That summer he moved up the River Tay to swap his dark blue shirt for a lighter shade when he signed for St Johnstone in Perth and on February 7th 1953, aged just thirty, he was appointed The Saints’ manager to become one of the first player/managers in Scottish Football history.
Johnny left St Johnstone in 1958 and retired from the game and sadly died aged seventy-nine in August 2002. In his six years at Dens he scored sixty-seven goals, making him twentieth on Dundee’s all time top goal scorers’ list putting him ahead of goal scoring Dens Park luminaries such as Tommy Coyne, Ray Stephen, Iain Ferguson, Nacho Novo, Juan Sara, Alec Stott and George Merchant to name but a few.
He also did something that none of those of other goal scoring legends achieved by winning a major honour and scoring a goal in the Final in the process and for that he will always be revered on Sandeman Street.
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish League Cup
Championship runner-up: 1948/49
Scottish B Division
League: 123, 43
Scottish Cup: 19,
League Cup: 30, 14
Totals: 172, 67