Played for Dundee and Motherwell – Jimmy Toner

Dundee travel Motherwell this weekend and so we take a look at a player who played for both clubs Jimmy Toner, a member of that wonderful George Anderson side of the early Fifties who won two Scottish League Cups.

Toner is one of a unique group of players who won two major winners medals with The Dee when he was part of the sides to win back to back League Cups in 1951 and 1952; the first club to do so.

Born on August 23rd 1924, Jimmy served in the Second World War when he played for his regiment side and his football career kicked off properly at the end of the conflict when he joined Junior side Fauldhouse United.

Jimmy was persuaded to sign for Dundee in July 1946 like so many in that era by the flamboyant and ambitious manager-director George Anderson.  By that time Jimmy was already a league and cup winner having just completed the Junior double with Fauldhouse United.   The success had followed a remarkable run of 46 games without defeat and watched by some extraordinary cup attendances against Blantyre Vics (38,000) and Arthurlie (46,000 at Hampden in the final). 

Amazingly Jimmy almost missed that final as he was in the RAF at the time and only on a day pass from his base in Medmenham in Buckinghamshire and the train never arrived in Glasgow until 2pm.  With no means of contacting the Fauldhouse officials he took a taxi from the train station, arriving only 20 minutes before kick off where his team mates were ready and stripped ready for action.  Fortunately he had already been included in the team lines, and so brought about a goal that the Daily Express would later describe as “One of the most amazing goals ever seen at Hampden Park.”

Fauldhouse had taken the lead in 13 minutes through a Hynd penalty and the score remained unchanged until Jimmy Toner mad his mark five minutes into the second half which the Daily Express reported as, “Toner trapped an up the middle pass 40 yards out, turned, twisted, beat four defenders in a row, veered to the left, half stumbled, recovered, then hit as fine a goal as seen at Hampden Park in years past Robertson from 15 yard range”. 

It would prove the final game together for Fauldhouse’s greatest side as senior clubs soon came calling, including Dundee.  Whilst stationed in the RAF Jimmy had played alongside Dark Blues’ captain Bobby Ancell who recommended the tricky inside forward to George Anderson.  Signed for the wage of £2 per week Jimmy later admitted that although there was interest from Celtic, Burnley, Newcastle and Manchester United, George Anderson was the only one who agreed to pay him even when he was on service with the RAF.

That would be a good financial move for the 21 year-old as it would be another 18 months before he was demobbed and would only manage the occasional reserve outing.  A broken tibia during RAF service then a cartilage operation in his early months of full time football at Dens setback his early career and it was not until the 1949/50 season he was ready for first team action. 

When that debut came it lit up Dens like a Christmas tree scoring a double against Stirling Albion at Dens Park on December 24th.  It was a hectic time of festive fixtures but the team were confident and next drew with Rangers (thanks to another goal from Jimmy) and Aberdeen before going on to beat Motherwell 2-0 over the holiday period.

In his first season Jimmy Toner made 12 appearances scoring a credible four goals but overall the team finished a disappointing sixth in the table only a year after becoming League runners-up.  Manager George Anderson knew more was needed and in September 1950 the whole of British football become aware of his plans when Dundee paid a record fee of £23,500 for the signature of Scottish internationalist Billy Steel from Derby County. 

Like the rest of Scottish football Jimmy was amazed and excited by the new arrival and remembered that “Budgem (Steel) was a special talent. Although he didn’t train hard, he was undoubtedly the reason that we went on to win silverware.  He gave everyone at the Club the confidence to be a success”. 

Steel’s debut against Aberdeen was a special one for his strike partner too as Jimmy scored along with Budgem in a 2-0 win in front of 34,000 spectators at Dens.  There was great excitement around the ground before and after that almost lead to both scorers missing their train home to Glasgow.  The radio broadcasters wanted an interview after the game but with the nearest transmitter at Coldside Library a quick interview was done just in time to jump in a taxi and catch their six o’clock train. 

That season Dundee had finished third in the League and whilst consistency would be their downfall in their search for league glory, there was no doubt on their day they matched the best in the country and in 1951/52 they proved that on their way to cup success.

Hibernian and Rangers would share all the league titles post war until 1953 but in achieving their League Cup double the Dark Blues firstly beat Rangers in the 1951 final and the Hibernian in the 1952 semi-final. 

The final victory over Rangers had demonstrated both flair and resilience with Dundee 2-1 ahead with only two minutes to play when they conceded an equaliser.  The real drama then unfolded when Billy Steel swung in a free kick and skipper Alfie Boyd headed a dramatic winner. 

One of the most iconic images of the Rangers cup victory is the post match celebration where the team are gathered on the pitch with Alfie Boyd aloft the shoulders of Tommy Gallacher and Billy Steel raising the League Cup.  Jimmy Toner can be seen holding aloft the iconic bowler hat of George Anderson with the same enthusiasm as his captain with the national trophy. 

The success of the Dundee team many believed was down to astute management by George Anderson and trainer Reggie Smith but Jimmy recalls that things were a bit simpler than that

Sadly weeks after the League Cup final victory over Rangers, Jimmy was injured playing against St Mirren, struggled to regain fitness and missed Dundee’s Scottish Cup final defeat to Motherwell at the end of the season.

As an inside-forward, Toner made seventy-one appearances for The Dee, scoring twenty-two times and his undoubted highlights were the two League Cup wins in 1951 and 1952. Jimmy played in the 3-2 win at Hampden over Rangers in October 1951 and twelve months later he was one of seven survivors from that game to win their second medal in the 2-0 win over Kilmarnock.

He scored five goals on the Road to Hampden in 1951, all in the sectional ties, which included a hat-trick against Raith Rovers at Dens, while the following year he got another two goals en route to the final, against Airdrie at home and Clyde away in the group stages.

Jimmy left at the end of the 1953-54 season but knew that his time was coming to an end a year earlier when he was omitted at the very last minute from the club’s famous trip to South Africa in the summer of 1953.

Fittingly before he departed Dens Jimmy was rewarded with a benefit game to mark his service with the Club (and shared with Dundee United’s George Grant).  A 9-3 win over Dundee United was a memorable farewell with Jimmy on the scoresheet.

At the age of 29 there was still plenty of football left in the tank and amazingly when it was announced he had been given a free transfer in May 1954 there was 15 clubs reported to be interested in signing him.  Jimmy was in no rush to sign for anyone and with his marriage to Christina only two weeks away there were bigger priorities on his mind.

Eventually Jimmy opted for a move down south and move to Leeds and, having played with one superstar, Billy Steel at Dens, he now joined up with another, John Charles at Elland Road. His stay at Leeds however only lasted a year before rekindling his friendship with Bobby Ancell again, this time at Motherwell but after only one season he moved to Forfar and ended his playing career in 1957 after three operations on his knee.   

When Ancell was appointed manager at Dens and the position of reserve team coach became available, Jimmy returned to Dens after a gap of eleven years and would stay with the club until 1978, working under four managers. .

During his spell as a coach at Dens he would help develop the players to step up to first team football which would produce another golden era for the Club with the likes of John Duncan, Iain Phillip, Jim Steele and Gordon Strachan coming through the ranks. 

Jimmy Toner was part of a golden era at Dens and last year was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in recognition of his achievement of winning two major winners’ medals with The Dee; something that none of the famous Championship winning team of ten years later achieved.

Honours at Dundee:

Scottish League Cup winners: 1951/52, 1952/53

Dundee FC Hall of Fame: 2016 Golden Era Award

Appearances, Goals:

League: 51, 14 goals

Scottish Cup: 3, 1 goal

League Cup: 17, 7 goals

Totals: 71, 22 goals

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