News/Football

Played for Dundee and Livi – Colin McMenamin

As Dundee travel to West Lothian on Saturday to face Livingston in the Ladbrokes Premiership, we take a look at a striker who played for both clubs, Colin McMenamin.

Colin was born in Glasgow in February 1981 but raised in Dumfries and was educated at the town’s St Joseph’s College. At age 15 he signed school boy terms with the club he had supported growing up, Queen of the South but it was with Dumfries and Galloway club Annan Athletic, then of the East of Scotland Football League that he began his senior career in 1999

After just one year at Galabank Colin’s potential was spotted by English Premier League club Newcastle United, who signed him in the summer of 2000 and although he was there for two seasons, did not make a senior appearance.

McMenamin returned to Scotland on a free transfer to Livingston in August 2002 and made his senior debut as a late substitute at home to Aberdeen in September. Colin was part of the Livi side that finished third in the SPL in 2001 and in three seasons at Almondvale he scored 12 goals in 57 and appearances. McMenamin also went on loan to Falkirk between August 2003 and December 2003, where scored four in 16 games for the First Division club.

After returning from Ochilview where The Bairns were sharing with Stenhousemuir while the Falkirk Stadium was being built, Livingston went in administration on the eve of a League Cup semi-final tie with Dundee. He would miss the 1-0 win having been cup tied with Falkirk and would therefore be ineligible for their historic 2-0 win over Hibs in the final to lift their first ever trophy.

Colin hit five goals in the last six games of the season with his only blank being against Dundee in a 2-0 defeat at Dens in May. Twelve months later Colin faced Dundee again in May, this time in the final do-or-die match of the season and was part of the side which earned a draw to keep them up and send the Dark Blues down.

That was Colin’s last game for The Lions for in the summer he left West Lothian to return down south and sign for Shrewsbury Town on a free transfer.  He had been recommended to Shrewsbury manager Gary Peters by his assistant Mick Wadsworth and quickly became the first-choice striker. He averaged one goal every four games with the Shropshire club and with 14 goals in 43 games he was the club’s top scorer in the 2005/ 06 League Two season.

After just a year at New Meadow Colin returned to the Scottish borders when he joined big spending Gretna on a free transfer in the summer of 2006. He made his debut as a substitute for James Grady in the 6–0 win at home to Hamilton on the opening day and scored his first Gretna goals a week later, scoring twice in a 2–1 victory away to Clyde.

By the end of the season McMemamin was named Gretna Player of the Year after scoring 23 times in 38 games and also picked up a First Division winners medal when they won the title with a last gasp, last day victory.

Gretna had also been promoted to the First Division in 2006, and for much of the 2006/07 season, they led the division, with a margin of 12 points at one stage. Manager Rowan Alexander was forced to step down in March 2007 due to unspecified health problems, though he later claimed that he had had no medical issues and had been asked to take time away by the club chairman. Coach Davie Irons stepped up to the manager’s position and Gretna’s form dipped; second-placed St Johnstone went on a good run, leaving Gretna with only a one-point lead going into the final day of the season and it took a last-minute goal by James Grady to defeat Ross County 3-2 to ensure promotion to the Scottish Premier League.

McMenamin scored in his second game back in the top flight in a 4-2 defeat at Hibs but it would be a season of turmoil and struggle for Gretna. With their Raydale ground unfit for SPL purpose, they were forced to ground share with Motherwell and with their financial situation worsening, Colin was allowed to join Livingston on loan to help reduce the wage bill.

On January 22nd 2008 Dundee announced at their AGM that Colin McMenamin was joining the Dark Blues from Gretna and scored twice on his debut against Queen of the South at Dens four days later.

His move to Tayside spared him the ignominy of a second administration experience as Gretna would sack forty staff before the end of the season and he would hit the ground running for Dundee with six goals in 12 games by the season’s end. .

Dundee’s aim for the 2008/09 was promotion back to SPL after four years in the First Division but a poor start to the campaign saw manager Alex Rae replaced by Jocky Scott in the dugout. Colin failed to score before Rae’s departure in October but scored eight times before the end season including giving Dundee the lead at Celtic Park in the Scottish Cup in January and a hat-trick against Partick in the final game of the season.

At the end of the campaign Dundee finished a credible fourth, 15 points behind champions St Johnstone who won the League with 65 points – four less than Dundee had as runners-up the year before.

Hopes were high therefore that promotion could be achieved in season 2009/10 under the guidance of the experienced Scott who had led Dundee to the First Division title in 1998. After years of struggling with the financial constraints caused by the administration period of 2003/04, it looked like those days might be behind the club thanks to new investment that had come into the club in the summer of 2009.

That investment came in the form of Aberdeen businessman Calum Melville who joined the board in March 2009 after answering a newspaper advert from Dundee F.C. chairman Bob Brannan which invited investment into the club. Prior to the 41 year old’s arrival at Dens, Dundee, if not exactly reaching for the stars, were hardly in the gutter either and the board, having studied the impact of administration, realised that they couldn’t afford to live beyond their means and if that meant fans had to lower their expectations, so be it.

This investment saw The Dee sign several new players such as Gary Harkins and Leigh Griffiths and in the first game on the new season against Stranraer in the League Cup at Dens, Colin was on target alongside four of the new boys in a 5-0 win.

By the end of October, Dundee had reached the final of the ALBA Cup, the League Cup quarter-final after beating SPL Aberdeen in the third round, and were level on points at the top of the league with Queen of the South and the next two months would see Dundee win the ALBA Cup and open up an eight-point gap at the top on Boxing Day.

Dundee had reached the Scottish League Challenge Cup Final, now sponsored by Gaelic speaking television channel BBC ALBA for the third time in their history where they met fellow First Division title contenders Inverness Caledonian Thistle at McDiarmid Park on Sunday 22nd November 2009.

In a thrilling final, Dundee were 2-0 down at half-time but stormed back in the second half to win 3-2 thanks to an own goal from Caley’s Nauris Bulvitis and strikes from Gary Harkins and Craig Forysth to lift the cup for the second time and McMenamin played his part as a second half sub.

December saw Jocky Scott win the Irn-Bru First Division Manager of the Month Award and in the first half in Inverness on the 26th, Dundee were extremely comfortable against one of their main rivals and went in at half time 1-0 ahead thanks to a Leigh Griffiths penalty. A win would mean a fifteen-point gap being opened up over the Highlanders but the second half was a completely different proposition and The Dee were lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw.

Defeat at home to Airdrie at New Year was another blow but The Dee bounced back with a 3-2 win over Dunfermline in which Griffiths scored twice and McMenamin once.

However a loss to Ross County and points dropped to Queen of the South and Ayr saw the lead at the top of the table being whittled away and when The Dee crashed to a 3-0 defeat to Airdrie at the Exclesior Stadium, the board decided to dispense with the services of Jocky Scott

In a statement released by the club via the official website, it explained why the decision had been made despite Dundee still being top of the league. “The unanimous decision of the board was not taken lightly but it was felt in view of the results since the turn of the year that the move was essential and in the best interests of the club.”

Recent performances had indeed been poor and with the lead now down to just three points, there was a worry that Inverness were going to overhaul The Dee sooner rather than later. It was clear now that it was imperative for the club to win the First Division to return to the SPL after a five-year absence and the mantra from Melville of ‘second is nowhere’ meant Jocky Scott had to pay the ultimate price despite his side still being top of the league.

Scott was sacked on March 20th with just nine matches to go until the end of the season and according to striker Colin McMenamin, “The whole place died the day they sacked Jocky Scott and we just never recovered from that. The boys were so close to Jocky and they felt really let down by the board at the time.”

Having won just two of their eight games since New Year, the board felt a fresh approach was needed to again get Dundee over the finishing line and they were desperate to get a new man in charge before the following Tuesday when the Dark Blues were due to face Queen of the South.

Ironically it was Queens’ manager Gordon Chisholm who quickly became the board’s first choice to take over and they envisaged a management dream team to include former Dundee favourite Billy Dodds, who had been coaching part-time with Chisholm in Dumfries. The Dark Blues wanted Dodds to give up his media career and join Dundee as full-time assistant manager instead of Chisholm’s number two at Palmerston, Kenny Brannigan, and when the pair agreed, they were offered their new roles at Dens.

Chisholm and Dodds were controversial choices for many Dark Blues fans with Chisholm becoming the first man to manage both Dundee and Dundee United while Dodds had criticised the club on a number occasions while working on the radio for BBC Scotland. 

Chisholm’s opening match in charge just two days later therefore was against the club he’d just left and the match against Queen of the South was shown live on BBC ALBA. The hope was that Dundee would get the immediate boost that a new manager often brings to a club and the game got off to the perfect start when Queens were reduced to ten men in 16 minutes. McAusland was sent off for denying Leigh Griffiths a goalscoring opportunity in the box and the striker dusted himself down and scored the resultant spot kick.

The Dee however couldn’t make their extra man count and after an hour Queens drew level through Bob Harris and managed to hold on for a point.

As McMenamin says The Dee never recovered and a poor end to the season saw Dundee eventually finish an astonishing 12 points behind champions Inverness in second place with Colin scoring 8 goals in 37 appearances.

The close season saw a large turnaround of staff as Chisholm looked to bring in his own players but Colin came on as a sub in the first game of the season at home to Alloa in the ALBA Cup and scored a late equaliser in the 2-1 win.

The league campaign started with a 1-0 win over Queen of the South at Dens with Dundee achieving that victory despite going down to nine men but the next game saw the Dark Blues go from the courageous to the ridiculous when they crashed out in of the ALBA Cup to Second Division Stenhousemuir, after a dismal performance saw The Dee surrender the trophy with a 4-1 defeat.

Results continued to be poor with a defeat away to Partick and a 0-0 draw with Ross County at Dens before another embarrassing cup exit, this time in the League Cup at Brechin on penalties.

Defeats in Fife to Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath in September started to put real pressure on Gordon Chisholm but rumours started to circulate that there were more pressing financial pressures off the pitch. Internet chatter was suggesting that Dundee may be in some sort of financial trouble and that Calum Melville might be about to jump ship and the dreaded ‘A’ word started to being bandied about. 

Colin felt uneasy about the situation and felt it unfair that the fans were in the dark and so was responsible for letting some fans know what was going on which made its way on the Dundee Mad website.

The local press were suggesting that Dundee owed the taxman in the region of £365,000 and on Friday 1st October, the players and staff were left reeling when the club failed to pay their wages. Financial expert Blair Nimmo had been negotiating with HMRC on the club’s behalf and was trying to persuade them to accept a lump sum now and the balance in the summer but the talks became deadlocked and Dundee decided not to pay their staff after taking independent advice.

The following day Dundee faced Morton at Dens and at the suggestion of captain Gary Harkins, the team went into a pre match huddle that would become synonymous with the Dee-Fiant season. The Dee would a secure a vital 2-1 thanks to a McMenamin winner but it would turn out to be Colin’s last game for the Dark Blues.

On October 14th 2010 Dundee Football Club entered administration for a second time in seven year and the following day 13 members of staff were made redundant and Colin was one of the nine players let go by the administrator Bryan Jackson.

In an interview with The Scotsman, McMenamin commented, “I’ve been through this before and this one has been the worst” but thankfully he wasn’t without a club for long.

A week later Queen of the South announced via their website that McMenamin had been training with his hometown team and the following day he started as a trialist against Falkirk at Palmerston.

The following week, still listed a s trialist Colin scored his first Queens’ goal against Ross County and on November 9th officially signed until the end of the season.

Queens would go all the way to the Challenge Cup Final where they would lose 2-0 to Ross County at McDiarmid but for the second time in his career Colin would miss a final as this time he had been cup tied by turning out for Dundee in the first two rounds.

Colin was given a warm reception by the Dundee support on the three occasions he lined up for The Doonhamers against The Dee in the Dee-Fiant season and in March, he refused to celebrate after giving Queens the lead at Dens.

“I have too much respect for the fans, never mind the club”, Colin said post match and the fans applauded him and chanted his name when he was taken off in the second half. After the final game of the season between Queens and Dundee, the Dark Blues’ CEO Harry McLean led the popular forward back onto the Palmerston pitch to accept the applause of the Dundee fans who responded warmly.

“It was humbling, really, really humbling”, said Colin after the game. “It’s difficult because I had a great camaraderie with the Dundee fans. I’ve always got on with them. When they sung my name today and the last time at Dens it was special, and it’s something I’ll always remember. I didn’t realise they were clapping when I came off and I didn’t realise until everybody was telling me so I gave them a clap and they responded again. It was fantastic.”

In the game at Dens in March Dundee bounced back to win 2-1 on the day Sean Higgins played with a minute steak from Yorkes the Butcher wrapped around an injured foot. It extended the Dark Blues’ unbeaten run to 20 games eclipsing the 1961/62 season 19 game run and they would go on to set a new record of 23 games; the first of which had been Colin’s last game against Morton.

By the end of the season Colin finished as Queens’ top scorer with 10 goals in 26 games and with his contract at an end joined Ross County in the summer. He would spearhead The Staggies challenge for the First Division title and would end up the league’s top scorer with 21 goals as Ross County won promotion to the SPL as champions; a whopping 24 points ahead of runners-up Dundee.

Colin featured 19 times in the top flight for County, scoring once but in January was allowed to join Morton until the end of the season.

In the summer he joined the ill-fated Celtic Nation in the Northern League (the 8th tier in the English pyramid system) who pursued the dream of chasing league football within five years but when they went bust he returned north to join Stenhousemuir.

After 46 goals in almost 200 appearances for Stenny over the next four years, Colin was appointed caretaker manager in November after Brown Ferguson was sacked and he was given the job on a permanent basis later that month.

He decided to call time on his playing career and hung up his goalscoring boots to concentrate on management and hit the headlines when he led Stenhousemuir to a famous draw in the Scottish Cup earlier this home.

Colin is fondly remembered by the Dundee support and in the It’s All About the Memories book which chronicled the Dee-Fiant season he said, “Dundee are a great club with great fans. It’s a really wonderful club.”

Honours With Dundee

ALBA Scottish League Challenge Cup winners: 2009/10

Appearances, Goals:

League: 63 + 17 subs, 21 goals

Scottish Cup 1 + 2 subs, 1 goal

League Cup: 4 + 1 sub, 1 goal

Challenge Cup: 3 + 4 subs, 1 goal

Totals: 95, 25 goals

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