Dundee travel to Lanarkshire this weekend to take on Motherwell at Fir Park and so we take a look at the career of striker Jim Hamilton who played for both clubs.
Hamilton, who finished top goal scorer in a season in which The Dee appeared in a major Cup Final, was one of a number of promising youngsters to come through the Dens Park conveyor belt in the Nineties, only to be sold on for a grossly undervalued fee at a time when the club were struggling to make ends meet.
Hamilton was born in Aberdeen on February 9th 1976 and started his footballing career at Keith under the tutelage of his namesake father, who was manager of the Highland League side at the time. He joined the Kynoch Park side as a raw teenager in 1993 but his talent was quickly spotted at Premier Division Dundee and he signed for the Dens Park club in January 1994.
Hammy didn’t have long to wait for his top team debut at Dundee for just four months later he came on as an eighteen year old substitute for Morten Weighorst in the last home game of the season and made a fine impression in an enjoyable 4-0 win.
Sixteen year old winger Iain Anderson also made his debut that day but unfortunately for The Dee they had already been relegated and faced the prospect of playing the 1994/95 season in the First Division after just two years in the top tier. For manager Jim Duffy he was looking for his starlets to make an impression in the promotion push and on the eve of the new season stated that, “I have a nucleus of eight or ten men who can compete with the best in the league and I am hopeful that youngsters like Jim Hamilton and Iain Anderson could push themselves into contention.”
Amongst that ‘nucleus’ was fellow youngster Neil McCann who was by now well established in the first team and by the end of Hammy’s first full season, he was also a regular feature of the first team, featuring thirty-three times. Amongst those appearances was a substitute one in the B&Q Cup Final against Airdrie at McDiarmid Park in November but there was disappointment for the Dark Blues when they went down 3-2 in extra-time.
There was more disappointment at the end of the season when The Dee missed on the First Division title by just one point and on the promotion play off by an agonising two goals and in the last game of the season, a 5-0 win at Stranraer proved to be in vain when seven would have seen Dundee finish second. Hammy was on target at Stair Park to score his thirteenth of the season while his first for the club had been in a 3-2 defeat at Ayr in September and he also got his first hat-trick in a 4-1 win away at Hamilton Accies five weeks before the end of the season..
Hopes were high therefore that Hammy could push on the following season and help Dundee grab that elusive promotion spot and he started the 1995/96 season in fine form scoring once in a 6-0 League Cup win against East Stirlingshire at Brockville and a hat-trick three days later against East Fife in the Challenge Cup.
That win over East Stirling was the first on the ‘Road to Hampden’ as Dundee went all the way to the Coca-Cola League Cup Final. By the time the Final came around at the end of November against Aberdeen, Hamilton had been an ever present in the side, was the top scorer with eleven goals and had made his debut for the Scotland Under-21 side.
He was hard to disposes and strong in the air and he had formed a promising partnership up front with the lively George Shaw after Gerry Britton had been sidelined through injury. At times Jim Duffy played the three of then up front and with Morten Weighorst dictating things in the middle and Neil McCann and Paul Tosh providing danger on the flanks, Duffy’s attacking side had high hopes for Hampden, especially after defeating Dundee United 3-2 at Tannadice the week before.
Hamilton played the full ninety minutes in the Final but it wasn’t to be however as the disappointing and nervy Dees went down 2-0 to The Dons.
It meant that the focus was now well and truly on getting promoted but it was going to be a hard task with Dundee United having been relegated from the Premier Division and Dunfermline one of the favourites after losing out to Aberdeen themselves in the two-legged play off in May. Dundee had travelled to Hampden top of the league but in its aftermath, the Dark Blues’ challenged petered out as they finished a disappointing fifth, ten points behind the play-off spot.
A combination of silly points dropped, defeats to promotion rivals at key times and the sale of Morten Weighorst to Celtic two days after the Final meant that Dundee were confined to a third year of First Division football despite Hamilton’s nineteen goals which saw him finish as top goal scorer.
Amongst those strikes was a brace against United at Dens but unfortunately it was to no avail as United ran out 3-2 winners but the next time he scored a double against United, it was part of a memorable night when Dundee knocked The Arabs out of the League Cup at the start of the following season. This time the clubs were drawn in Coca-Cola Cup third round at Tannadice and with the home side now back in the Premier Division, they started the match very much the favourites.
On a warm, humid evening, a crowd of 12,000 saw Dundee make a positive start only for Owen Coyle to put United ahead on twenty minutes. The Dens Parkers battled back however through a Jim Hamilton penalty and after the game swung from end to end in the second half, the game went into extra time.
The thrills continued when Hammy crashed a shot off the bar and Gary McSwegan hit the post but then on ninety-seven minutes, Chic Charnley deftly rolled the ball along the edge of the United box and Kevin Bain hit a shot which Jim Hamilton deflected into the net to give Dundee a 2-1 lead.
Kevin Magee almost made it three when he cracked an angled shot off the post but with ten minutes left, McSwegan made it 2-2 to take the tie to penalties. Tannadice was at fever pitch and Charnley, Tosh and McKeown scored from the spot for The Dee and after Dundee keeper Billy Thompson saved from McSwegan, Iain Ferguson gave the Dark Blues a 4-2 lead. Thomson was again the hero when he saved the next penalty from Owen Coyle and The Dee had upset the odds to win the tie on penalties with Hamilton not needed to take Dundee’s fifth.
The next round saw Dundee draw Aberdeen at Dens in the quarters and with a chance to avenge last year’s Final defeat, The Dee didn’t disappoint with a memorable 2-1 win. It was another tie of drama all the way with Paul Tosh giving Dundee the lead in front of the interval before Billy Dodds levelled with a dubious penalty in the second half but Dundee were not to be denied when Jim Hamilton finished off a good move with a half-hit shot which squirmed beneath Nicky Walker for a dramatic last-gasp winner!
The semis saw Dundee meet Hearts at Easter Road but this time it was the Jambos’ turn for revenge when they went through to the Final with a 3-1 win having been knocked out the previous years competition in the quarter-final on penalties at Dens after a sensational 4-4 draw.
Dundee’s counter that night came again from Hamilton and the Jam Tarts must have liked what the saw of the six foot striker as they took him to Tynecastle in December for a £250,000 fee. Having scored goals against three Premier Division sides in the run to the League Cup semi-final (and one against Kilmarnock the previous year), Hamilton had shown his pedigree but there is no doubt he went to Edinburgh for a fraction of his worth. Like several of his young Dark Blue contemporaries such as Neil McCann, Iain Anderson and Paul Tosh, Hamilton left Dens Park on the cheap but his three years in Gorgie were enjoyable when he was part of the 1998 Hearts Scottish Cup winning side.
After Hearts, Hamilton played for a long list of Scottish clubs such as Aberdeen, Dundee United, Dunfermline (twice), Ross County, Livingston (twice), Motherwell, St Mirren, Partick, Arbroath and East Fife. He spent one year at Fir Park in 2005/06 where he scored 11 times in 38 appearances before returning to Dunfermline for a second spell and played in the Scottish Cup Final with The Pars at the end of the following years.
His time with Dundee however was his most prolific as goal scorer, where he knocked in 39 goals in 95 appearances as well as having won the most Scotland Under-21 caps (11) in the Club’s history and he is remembered fondly at Dens as a popular striker who gave his all in his time with The Dee.
Honours with Dundee:
Scottish League Cup runner-up: 1995/96
B&Q Challenge Cup runner-up: 1994/95
Scotland Under-21 caps: 11
League: 65 + 9 subs, 27 goals
Scottish Cup: 2, 1 goal
League Cup: 9, 7 goals
SFL Challenge Cup: 7 + 3 subs, 4 goals
Totals: 95, 39 goals