MANY years ago, at way too early a time on a Saturday morning given what had occurred the night before, some colleagues and I found ourselves in a Glasgow hotel.

We had been summoned to meet our new star columnist, the one and only Jim McLean, who arrived dressed as if he’d just come out of a bowling club meeting, complete with blazer buttons so bright that looking straight into them was dangerous.

I had never met him before. One or two of the lads had, and even then we were all of a generation that had missed his great days at Dundee United, and it’s fair to say that we were all intimidated by this icon who, after all, had punched a reporter.

We weren’t hungover. That was in the post. We were all still drunk from a leaving do for four, that’s four, people which went on too long. Not one of us woke up where we were supposed to.

Wee Jum never drank. We reeked of booze. It was some first impression. As one of the chaps said, having noticed none of us could hold our coffee cups without shaking: “This is a f*****g shambles. We’re all still p****d.”

The only way to survive was through humour, and therefore we bombarded the great man with questions almost as loaded as we were: "Jim, what do you think of agents?”, “Are there any good chairmen about?”, “Should you still be involved at Tannadice?”, “Jim, Duncan Ferguson. Your thoughts?”

Every answer was golden. The worry was that once we called him, would wee Jum be as open when he knew his words would be reproduced in a newspaper? We needn’t have worried.

He was brilliant. “Make no mistake…” was how he started most sentences, before going on a well-thought-out rant about what was wrong with football. It was a joy to do. I at least had enough about me to realise it was a privilege to visit him and wife Doris in his home, and when it was my turn to phone to ghost write the column.

Once, Doris answered and told me to hold on as Jim was doing the hoovering, which I could hear in the background. Queen’s video for “I Want to Break Free” sprung to mind. I almost gave myself an aneurysm suppressing my laughter.

His football knowledge was incredible. His will to win had not changed. Rather randomly, I overhead someone talking about Jim at the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, complaining that he could be a right pain if he lost at the bowls.

I told Jim this. He was ever so proud.

Jim would come to the work Christmas lunches, which were always rowdy affairs. He loved them, joined in the chat and could hold his own when the banter flowed.

Ally McCoist was always there. Jim had been in hospital, Ally had gone to visit him and recalled how he knew which bed this titan of Scottish football occupied.

“It was the only one without any visitors.”

Jim loved that one and admitted that he’d have to put his cheeks in the fridge when he got home because there were red from laughing.

He had been terrible with journalists during his managerial career, which he admitted himself, handing out bans to individuals and newspapers in the style of that idiot in the White House whose face itself is a tribute to Dundee United.

However, Jim McLean unquestionably was a football genius. With Dundee United – not even the biggest club in their street – he won the Premier League, two League Cups, reached a UEFA Cup final and the semi-final of the European Cup.

It was with a team which cost next to nothing. They played football the right way. The players loved and hated the manger, sometimes on the same day, but the respect they had for him was absolute.

“He is a b*****d but we need him so we can win things,” goalie Hamish McAlpine told a player almost brought to tears by a bollocking.

That United team should have won more. Under McLean, they reached nine cup finals, including the 1987 UEFA Cup when they lost over two legs to Sweden’s IF Gothenburg. They won their first two and lost the next seven.

Five times United got to the Scottish Cup final and never won. They lost to Rangers, St Mirren and Motherwell – all inferior teams at the time – and even in their two defeats to Celtic were 1-0 up on both occasions well into the second half.

The biggest disappointment was the 1984 European Cup semi-final defeat to Roma. Had they gone through, Liverpool awaited them, one of the greatest teams of all time. But United had got good at beating the best.

Leading 2-0 from the home first leg, Roma won 3-0 and we know now that the game was questionable…

Stories of the referee being bribed have never gone away, but Jim never blamed the skulduggery for the defeat. Only Maurice Malpas played well that day, he told me once.

So, he wasn’t perfect. Just brilliant.

Jim has been ill with dementia for many years now. All that knowledge and expertise gone. It’s tragic. However, the man himself will never be forgotten.

Dundee Council have just agreed to allow a statue of Dundee United’s greatest servant to be erected outside of Tannadice. About time to because, make no mistake, Wee Jim McLean remains a legend.

They should rename the stadium after him.