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Doug Smith

Footballer;

Born: November 18, 1937; Died: December 5, 2012.

Doug Smith, who has died at the age of 75, was a footballer who spent his entire professional career with Dundee United and went on to serve the Tannadice club as director and chairman as well as holding the post of president of the Scottish Football League in season 1997-98, his length of service running to 40 years.

Douglas Bryan Smith was born in Aberdeen and played youth football with Aberdeen Lads' Club before signing for Dundee United in 1959, making his first-team debut in a home league fixture against Alloa Athletic.

The departure of fellow Aberdonian Ron Yeats to Liverpool in a £30,000 transfer in July 1961 allowed Smith the opportunity to establish himself as centre-half at the heart of the United defence. There were many who feared the loss of the colossus Yeats – a product of the same Aberdeen Lads' Club – but Smith would prove to be a model of consistency, missing only four competitive games in the next 10 years, including just two league fixtures.

These were exciting times for the club: under manager Jerry Kerr they achieved promotion to the top division in 1960 and quickly established themselves, reaching their first Scottish FA Cup semi-final in 1963 (losing 5-2 to Rangers), and the last four of the Scottish League Cup in season 1964-65, where again the Ibrox men emerged triumphant.

Smith may not have won any winners' medals but he did receive the acclaim of his own supporters when he was voted Player of the Year in 1964.

United did reach the final of the 1964-65 Scottish Summer Cup, only to lose to Motherwell over two legs mainly due to a superb goalkeeping display by Peter McCloy.

Fifth position in Division One in season 1965-66 secured an initial European qualification for Dundee United – leading to a Fairs Cities Cup campaign that included a truly remarkable home-and-away triumph over Barcelona before defeat at the hands of Juventus in the next round.

By now Kerr was strengthening his squad with the arrival of several talented international players from Scandinavia, such as Orjan Persson, Finn Dossing, Lennart Wing, Mogens Berg and Finn Seeman, but there remained one constant at the heart of the Tannadice defence.

Smith hailed from a footballing family: his brother Dave played for Aberdeen, Rangers and Scotland, winning a European medal with the Ibrox club in 1972. International recognition was denied to Smith, although many rated him as among the finest centre-halfs never to have played for Scotland.

He was appointed club captain in the late 1960s. Following the retiral of Kerr in 1971, Jim McLean arrived as his successor and life on Tayside would never be the same again. By now Smith had a certain namesake Walter as a team-mate.

Remarkably he was third-top goalscorer in season 1972-73 with nine goals, all from the penalty spot.

By 1974 he was at the veteran stage in football and finally achieved a career high when leading United out in that year's Scottish Cup Final after overcoming Hearts at the penultimate stage. Victory at Hampden would have been the crowning glory of such a distinguished life in football but there was to be no sentimental outcome as Celtic ran out 3-0 winners.

By now promising youngsters of the ilk of Andy Gray, David Narey and Paul Hegarty were breaking through at Tannadice, and Smith announced his retirement at the age of 38 at the end of season 1975-76, his final game a 1-2 league defeat at Celtic Park on January 31.

A total of 628 appearances for Dundee United (and 27 goals) was at the time of his retirement a club record. A gentleman on and off the park, Smith was never booked during his career – a remarkable statistic for a centre-half. A testimonial game in August 1977 was a fitting tribute to a distinguished club servant.

An invitational XI included players of the calibre of Ron Yeats, Tommy McLean, Bobby Lennox and Joe Harper as well as many former colleagues.

To widespread acclaim, Smith was invited to join the board of directors at Tannadice in November 1983, elected vice-chairman in 1992 and succeeded to the chairmanship in 2000 following the resignation of Jim McLean.

To many observers the former centre-half had taken on the role of pacifier when former manager McLean was railing against authority, the media, referees and life in general. He served on various SFA committees and rose to president in the Scottish Football League.

An acrimonious Extraordinary General Meeting in January 2002 saw Smith resign as chairman but he remained for the rest of his life a dedicated Dundee United fan.

He was predeceased by his wife May but is survived by son David and daughter Louise.

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