Played for Dundee and Hamilton Academical – George McLean

This weekend Dundee travel to Lanarkshire to take on Hamilton Academical at New Douglas Park and so we take a look at a player who has played for both clubs George McLean who at Dens is a club record holder, scored a double in a Cup Final, played in a European semi and all in the same season as he was top goal scorer with thirty-five goals in his debut season.

When Dundee signed McLean in 1967, there was no doubt that manager Bobby Ancell had picked up a player of quality.  Having been released by Rangers in the wake of their embarrassing Scottish Cup defeat to Berwick Rangers, big ‘Dandy’ as he was affectionately known oozed class on the ball, liked the finer things in life, had a wife who was a model (who once kicked off a testimonial at Dens), had a jaguar car and was a dapper dresser, hence the nickname. 

George Tomlinson McLean was born in Paisley May 26th 1943 and in 1959 joined local senior side St. Mirren after turning out for Drumchapel Amateurs.  He was part of The Buddies’ side that reached the Scottish Cup Final in 1962 and on the ‘Road to Hampden’, they beat eventual league champions Dundee 1-0 in the second round at Dens, thanks to George’s winner. 

Although Rangers won the Final 2-0, McLean impressed the Ibrox management enough to persuade them to part with a then Scottish record fee of £27, 500 the following January and in five years in Govan, he won two league championships, two League Cups and three Scottish Cups including a winners’ medal against Dundee in 1964. 

However following a disastrous 1-0 Scottish Cup defeat to Second Division Berwick Rangers in January 1967, Jim Forrest and George McLean were made scapegoats and were transfer listed, never to play for the Light Blues again and it initially looked like it was Forrest who was going to join Dundee in exchange for Andy Penman, who himself had handed in a transfer request at Dens.  Forrest however joined Preston North End but in April, the £55, 000 rated Dundee championship winner Penman, joined Rangers in exchange for George McLean plus £30, 000. 

The twenty-four year old McLean had scored eighty league and cup goals for Rangers but the inside-forward was ineligible for Dundee’s remaining games having signed after the transfer deadline.  He had to wait therefore to the first game of the 1967/68 season to make his Dark Blue debut and he did so coming off the bench to replace Billy Campbell in a 0-0 League Cup sectional tie with Hibernian at Dens. 

It was the start of a dream debut season for McLean which would see the forward finish as top scorer with thirty-five goals as Dundee reached a major cup final and the semi-final of a European competition. 

His first goal for Dundee came in his first start at home to Motherwell in a 2-1 League Cup win and it was part of a League Cup campaign that would take Dundee all the way to the Final.  Having topped a section which included Motherwell, Hibs and Clyde, Dundee defeated East Fife over two legs in the quarter-final and St. Johnstone in the semi-final at Tannadice with McLean scoring five en route to Hampden. 

In the Final against Celtic in October, McLean was on target again, scoring twice but it only earned ‘Dandy’ a runners-up medal as Dundee lost out 5-3 to the Lisbon Lions in an exciting but from Dundee’s point of view, ultimately disappointing match. 

The Dark Blues also found themselves in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup having profited from the rule which stated the only one club could enter per city which denied Clyde a place with Rangers finishing higher in the league the previous year.  Dundee took full advantage of Clyde’s misfortune by going all the way to the semi-final where they lost out to Leeds United 2-1 on aggregate. 

McLean was on target in the first round in the away leg against D.W.S. Amsterdam in the Olympic Stadium but it was in the away leg in the second round that George really made his mark. 

Drawn against Royal Leige from Belgium, Dundee won the home leg 3-1 just four days after the League Cup Final defeat but in the second leg, they recorded a stunning 4-1 win, with George McLean scoring all of Dundee’s goals.  Although essentially a great team display, ‘Dandy’ had taken star billing by scoring all four of Dundee’s goals and set a club record for most goals in a European match, which still stands today. 

McLean was a great character both on and off the park and after his double brace in Leige, he suggested to Dundee manager Bobby Ancell that his number should be replaced on his shirt with an ‘S’ for Superman! 

A great season was literally ‘capped’ for McLean when he made his one and only appearance for Scotland in a goalless draw against Holland in May 1968 in the same stadium where he had earlier scored his Fairs Cup quadruple. 

1967/68 was a remarkable season in many ways with the Cup Final and European semi appearances and was also remarkable for the incredible number of high scoring games including scores of 4-2 (five times), 4-3 (a Forfarshire Cup Final win over Dundee United), 5-2 (twice), 5-3, 5-4, 6-2 and 6-5. Amongst all that McLean scored three hat-tricks (one of which was that four in Leige) and seven braces.

However less than twelve months later, he was on his way out of Dens when he failed to thrive on the different style of play introduced by new manager John Prentice.  He joined Dunfermline for £22, 000 in March 1969 but not before he scored another eleven goals including a hat-trick against Stranraer in the League Cup quarter-final when Jocky Scott also got a treble in a 6-0 win and a strike in the semi-final at Tynecastle when Dundee narrowly missed out on a second successive final, losing 2-1 to Hibs. 

He later played for Ayr United and Vancouver Whitecaps before retiring from the game after one substitute appearance for Hamilton in 1975.  His time at Dens had been mercurial to say the least and he was a player who the fans never knew what he was going to do next.  He could be frustrating one minute then brilliant the next but there was no doubting that George McLean was popular with the support, who remember his brilliant moments with relish. 

Honours at Dundee:

Scottish League Cup runner-up: 1967/68

U.E.F.A. / Inter-Cities Fairs Cup semi-final: 1967/68

Scotland full cap: 1

DFC Appearances, Goals:

League: 52 + 2 subs, 25 goals

Scottish Cup: 4

League Cup: 16 + 1 sub, 16 goals

Europe: 8, 5 goals

Totals: 86, 46 goals

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