Played for Dundee and Hearts - Bobby Flavell

Played for Dundee and Hearts – Bobby Flavell

To score a goal in a winning cup final for Dundee is pretty special but to do it twice is incredible and only one man has achieved this tremendous feat. When Dundee became the first side to win back to back League Cups in 1951 and 1952, Bobby Flavell wrote himself into the Dark Blue history books by scoring in both victorious finals.

Robert Flavell was an exceptional forward who was born in Annathill in North Lanarkshire on September 1st 1921 and he joined the senior game by signing for Airdrieonians in 1940. He had to wait until the 1946/47 season to make a league appearance, due to the Second World War and during the conflict, Flavell had made guest appearances for both Arsenal and Spurs. When the Scottish Football League resumed in 1946, Flavell scored over a goal per game for Airdrie and won two full caps for Scotland, which convinced Hearts to pay £10,000 to acquire his services.

He again scored frequently at Tynecastle, but he became a football outcast in 1950 by signing for Millonarios of the breakaway Colombian league. Bankrolled by cattle barons, this league was unrecognised by F.I.F.A. and proved to be a controversial career advancement plan for a determined group of British players such as Stoke City centre-half Neil Franklin, Manchester United’s Charlie Mitten and Bobby Flavell.

Money was the main draw for top European players and Flavell played alongside Alfredo Di Stefano for the Bogota-based Millonarios and maintained a friendship with the great man, meeting up again at the Champions League Final in Glasgow in 2000. The side became renowned for its artistry and was nicknamed the ‘Ballet Azul’ (Blue Ballet) and after eighteen months in South America, Bobby returned to Scotland where he signed for Dundee.

He officially joined the Dark Blues from Hearts as the Tynecastle side still held his registration and he made his competitive debut on the first day of the 1951/52 season away to St. Mirren in the League Cup where he scored in a 2-2 draw.

That match in Paisley was the first on the ‘Road to Hampden’ as Dundee went all the way to the final. Flavell had quickly struck up a potent partnership with Billy Steel and in the semi-final against Motherwell at Ibrox, he scored a hat-trick in an impressive 5-1 win to see The Dark Blues through to the Hampden showpiece.

At half-time in the final Dundee went in 1-0 down but two minutes after the restart, they were back on level terms when the ever alert Flavell fired home a cross from George Christie, despite the best efforts of Rangers keeper Bobby Brown and the Dark Blues went on to lift the cup with a memorable 3-2 win.

Twelve months later, Dundee were back at Hampden for a third time, having lost the Scottish Cup Final to Motherwell in April and this time they faced ‘B’ Division Kilmarnock on October 25th 1953 as Dundee tried to successfully defend their League Cup.

Flavell had scored nine goals en route to Hampden, including a hat-trick against old club Airdrie in a sectional tie and Dundee’s second in the semi-final win against league champions Hibs where Billy Steel got the first, but now he would be the sole hero in the final.

With just ten minutes left, Dundee made the breakthrough after being ‘under the cosh’ for most of the game when Jimmy Toner sent the perfect pass to Flavell and the wee centre shot low past Niven into the Ayrshire side’s goal. Six minutes later, Dundee made certain when a Bobby Henderson long punt reached the Killie penalty area and, as centre-half Thyne hesitated, Flavell raced in to thump the bouncing ball into the corner of the net.

‘Hampden Smash-And-Grab by Flavell’, proclaimed the headline in The Courier on the Monday but Dundee didn’t care as they became the first side to retain the Scottish League Cup.

At the end of the season, Flavell finished as the Dark Blues’ top scorer for the second season in a row with twenty-five goals, wearing the number nine shirt with which he became synonymous.

After enjoying a two month summer tour of South Africa, in which Bobby scored fifteen goals in Dundee’s seventeen-match visit, he started the new season in the same goalscoring form by grabbing four in a 6-1 League Cup win over Stirling Albion in the first game.

However, after scoring seven goals in eighteen starts by Christmas, the ageing Flavell found himself out of the team as George Merchant moved from centre-half to centre-forward and started scoring goals. He therefore moved to Kilmarnock for two years before transferring to St. Mirren where he would later become manager and knock Dundee out of the Scottish Cup in their Championship season.

Flavell however will be remembered for more glorious cup exploits with Dundee and his sixteen goals in the two League Cup campaigns in the early Fifties did as much as anything to help Dundee win back to back trophies for the only time in the Club’s history.

Honours at Dundee:

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

Scottish Cup runners-up: 1952

Appearances, Goals:

League: 68, 32 goals

Scottish Cup: 6

League Cup: 24, 21 goals

Totals: 98, 53 goals

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