Bill Nicholson, the great Tottenham Hotspur manager, would recall the intense haggling that went on, first with Dundee and then later with Gilzean himself.
Loading article content
Gilzean confided in friends that the terms offered by Sunderland had been “out of this world” and when he met with Nicholson at an agreed spot on the banks of the River Tay after Dundee had accepted Spurs’ bid of £72,500, he wanted to ensure he got the same deal.
“When I met Gillie in his car beside the Tay, he told me he was keen to come to White Hart Lane but Sunderland had offered him £20 for a win and £10 for a draw,” explained Nicholson. “‘They can’t do that,’ I said. ‘It’s illegal. In the regulations it says a club can only pay £4 for a win and £2 for a draw’.
“I must have convinced him I was telling the truth, because he rejected Sunderland’s offer and accepted my lower one. A few weeks later I met the late Alan Hardaker, secretary of the Football League, and asked him what clubs were allowed to offer players after the maximum wage restriction was lifted.
“‘Can they offer money for points?’ I asked.
“‘Yes, they can. Under the new system, you can pay them what you like’.
“I saw Gillie about it a few days later. ‘I’m afraid I misled you,’ I said.
“‘I knew I was right,’ answered Gillie. Typically of him, he didn’t submit a wage claim, but I made sure his contract was improved.”
The 1963-64 season had provided the record-breaking backdrop to Gilzean’s departure. His 52 goals for Dundee that season included a club record of 33 in the league. He would add another three playing for Scotland, having made his debut in the 6-1 win over Norway in a friendly on November 7.
Watching Gilzean against the Norwegians was Jock Richardson, Tottenham’s scout in Scotland. When Richardson died, his son sent Andy Porter, the Spurs historian, a series of carbon notebooks filled with scouting reports. One sheet, franked with the number 12, contains the observations Bill Nicholson pored over in the days after the Scotland-Norway game.
6ft 1 inch
Scotland v Norway
I was particularly impressed by the play of the Scottish centre-forward, Alan Gilzean. He worried the Norwegian defence into making quite a few mistakes and he had many shots from all angles at the opposing team’s goal. He was very unlucky not to score and besides having fast, good ball control, his heading of cross balls is very good. He had a grand understanding with his other forwards. If he plays for his club Dundee as he did on Thursday no wonder he is the chief goalscorer. A player I can recommend.
11/11/63 Jock Richardson
“It’s over: Gilzean joins Spurs”, proclaimed the Dundee Evening Telegraph’s backpage headline. “It” referred to the end of a six-month transfer saga. It could just as easily have meant the end of an era.
Norrie Price, the Dundee FC historian, recalls that when he heard the news it felt like learning of a death. “It felt like a life. I didn’t want to think about him. I tried to erase Gillie from my mind, but I had an uncle who lived in London and he would go to watch Spurs and he would come up home to Arbroath and tell me how well he was doing. It was heartbreaking.”
THE £72,500 fee set a new record between Scottish and English clubs and took the bill for Nicholson’s rebuilding of Spurs to almost £500,000. The Daily Mirror reported that Gillie was due to travel by sleeper to London on Thursday, December 17 and had managed to catch up with Irene, who had been directing traffic in Dundee just a few yards down the road from Dens Park as her fiance was signing his Spurs contract. “Alan phoned me with the news. I’m relieved it’s all over,” she said.
Rather than reflect on his time at Dundee, Gilzean, like Irene, could express only relief at the end of the protracted process. In a first person piece with a national newspaper he explained his reasons for choosing Tottenham.
“I’m a Spurs player at last,” he told the Daily Express, “and I couldn’t be more delighted with the world. When I first heard that Spurs wanted me, I knew within myself that White Hart Lane was where I wanted to go. But a soccer player’s life is short and sometimes not altogether sweet. It is always up to the player to get the best financial deal out of any transfer. That is the only reason why everyone must be sick by now of the name of Alan Gilzean in the papers. But, at the age of 25, I have only five or six top years left in the game and it is up to me to try to get the most out of football while I am on top.
“Spurs manager Bill Nicholson travelled north and in a Dundee hotel we sat down to talks. Negotiations were on and then appeared off. And at times I thought everything and all my hopes would fly out of the window. But just two weeks ago we had our final meeting and now I have got my wish, I am a Spurs player, bound for London.
“Dundee can only hit the big time occasionally. With Spurs I can look for something big every season. Yes, for Alan Gilzean the future is rosy.”
In Search of Alan Gilzean is available at all good book stores and costs £9.99, but Sunday Herald readers can buy it for just £7.49 by visiting:
The author has been blogging about his experiences writing the book here: