It was May 1991 and for the sixth time in 17 years Dundee United had finished as beaten Scottish Cup finalists. On a personal level, it was the third time that Bowman had ended up collecting a runners-up medal after United lost 4-3 to Motherwell in one of the most memorable finals ever. Or so he thought.
Only once they had returned to their dressing room to contemplate another Hampden defeat did it become apparent that something was not right. In their hands was not their trinket for losing the final but, in fact, the winners' medals that should have gone to the victorious Motherwell side. Bowman and United would finally break their Scottish Cup hoodoo three years later by beating Rangers in the 1994 final but, at the time, this administrative mistake was like pouring salt into very raw wounds.
"I played in four Scottish Cup finals and I got one winners' medal out of it," said the former Tannadice midfielder as he helped promote tomorrow's William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final between United and Dundee. "People ask what the Scottish Cup itself was like. Nowadays it's paraded about everywhere but we never had that beforehand. Before '94, I thought that no matter what I had to touch it this time. I'd never even touched the cup. I was used to walking by it after we'd lost.
"After the Motherwell game they even gave us the wrong medals. We were sitting in the dressing room when there was a knock on the door from someone at the SFA sheepishly asking for us to swap them. When you get a runners-up medal you don't even look at it so none of us had noticed. I've buffed out the details on all my runners-up medals anyway – so I've a whole collection of winning ones! Normally you'd never look at a loser's one. You'd throw it away or stuff it in the bottom of your bag."
After all the heartache, the win in 1994 over a Rangers side going for successive trebles was a special moment for United, particularly the old guard who had suffered so much anguish in the past. "For the likes of myself, Maurice Malpas and Jim McInally who had been there so many times and not won it, it was all the sweeter," added Bowman. "The relief and joy when we won was something else. People say it's great to get to a final but it's not. It's only great if you win it.
"Beating such a good Rangers side probably made it more ironic in the way we did it. They were going for back-to-back trebles and we certainly went into that one as underdogs whereas previously we'd maybe been the favourites. Anything can happen in a cup tie."
Dundee will be hoping that is the case. The team from Dens Park have lost both derbies this season 3-0 – as well as a pre-season friendly by the same scoreline – but hope the appointment of John Brown as interim manager will give them fresh impetus ahead of tomorrow's match. Tosh McKinlay, a one-time Dundee team-mate of Brown's, hopes that is the case.
"John will fire them up," he said. "Dundee are more than capable of getting a result [against United]. They have been really unfortunate at times this season when they have played well but inexperience meant they haven't seen games through to secure a point or all three points they maybe deserved. I believe Bomber [Brown] can get them a result this time."
He certainly managed it in 1984. Then an impassioned defender for the Dens Park side, Brown scored the decisive goal in a derby at Tannadice 29 years ago, a strike which he ensured he was able to celebrate by going out on his stag night.
"I scored a winner in a 4-3 victory over the road which was my first Dundee derby," said Brown. "It was strange because Archie Knox [then Dundee manager] found out it was my stag night. We had lost the first four games of the season and he said to me: 'If we don't get a result today you can forget about your night.' That was my lasting memory.
"It was a great experience winning derbies and to score in them leaves a great feeling, even to this day I remember back to those memories. It's something the players can look back when they retire; they can say they had a decent career and reflect on moments that changed things."
Johnny Russell has already had the chance to share his thoughts on the derbies this season, with the United forward having been targeted by Dundee fans on social media. Much of that – although not all of it – has been good natured and Russell has seen the interest in him as a compliment. "There's nothing wrong with a bit of banter and I've had it on Twitter with Dundee fans before," said the striker, who is expected to recover from a midweek knock in time to play. "Some people take it too far. If you get under their skin then it shows you're doing your job well."
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