Played for Dundee, Celtic and Dundee United – Tommy Coyne

This week Dundee host both Celtic and Dundee United at Dens and so we look at a player who has played for all three clubs, Tommy Coyne.

Coyne’s first spell at Dens was short – barely lasting two years – but it was certainly most illustrious. When manager Jocky Scott asked him to cross ‘The Great Divide’ from Tannadice, there were a few eyebrows raised but he went on to form a lethal partnership with Keith Wright with a goals-to-game ratio barely matched in Dundee’s history.

Born in Govan seven months after Dundee became Scottish League Champions, Tommy started his professional career with Clydebank where he made his debut in the 1981/82 season, scoring nine goals in thirty-one matches. Twenty-nine goals in the next season and a half persuaded Premier Division Champions Dundee United to part with £60,000 for his services but he never really hit form at Tannadice, hitting the net only nine times in three years.

On the last day of the 1965/86 season Coyne missed a penalty at Dens for The Arabs as The Dee won 1-0 but a few months later he made Dens Park his home when Jocky Scott parted with £75,000 for the twenty-four year old.

Jocky also splashed out £50,0000 on Keith Wright from Raith Rovers a week earlier and immediately it looked like money well spent for both when the new strike force spearhead Dundee to a 6-3 win over St Mirren at home on Tommy’s debut in December.

Tommy had to wait until the New Year for his first goal in a Dundee shirt and it came on a waterlogged pitch at Bayview where Dundee met East Fife in the third round of the Scottish Cup. It was a crucial strike from Coyne as it proved to be a late equaliser which earned Dundee a replay where Dundee had no problem dispatching the Fife side 4-1 with Tommy scoring the third.

In between these two matches Coyne scored his first league goal away to his old club Clydebank and a goal in the next league match at Hamilton made it four strikes in four games to signal the start of Super Tommy’s remarkable goal scoring record for the club.

Coyne and Wright were now terrorising Premier Division defenders on a weekly basis and earned themselves the nickname of ‘The Cobra’ and ‘The Mongoose’ and in the Scottish Cup, Coyne lived up to his new nickname with deadly strikes which killed off the hopes of Meadowbank and Clydebank.

Those wins had sent Dundee through to the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee Unietd at Tynecastle and despite scoring his first goal against his former employers, Dundee went out in a heart breaking 3-2 defeat.

By the end of Tommy’s first season at the club, Coyne had scored his first Dundee hat-trick against Clydebank and in the last game of the campaign, Tommy scored a penalty in a 7-3 win over Hamilton meaning Dundee had scored a remarkable 100 goals in all competitions.

Super Tommy finished his debut season with fifteen goals to make him two goals behind top scorer Graham Harvey’s seventeen but he had played fourteen games less and had a strike rate of one goal in less than every two games.

The Cobra would start his second season with the Dark Blues in the same way he finished his first in fine goal scoring form and at the end of August scored four against Dunfermline at home in a 5-0 win.

In Dundee’s next match, Coyne and Dundee got a chance for revenge for that Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Dundee United when they met The Terrors in the League Cup quarter-final at Dens in front of a capacity 19,724. With only six minutes on the clock United took the lead through former Dee Iain Ferguson but with just five minutes left, after Ferguson had just been announced over the tannoy as the sponsor Skol’s man of the match, Dundee took the tie into extra time when Tommy slid home a Tosh McKinlay cross.

Roared on by an exuberant home crowd, Dundee now put United under severe pressure and five minutes into extra time Dens erupted when The Mongoose finished off a superb move by The Cobra and Graham Harvey who had only been on the park for two minutes. Dundee held on for a famous 2-1 win and Coyne had written himself into folklore with that equalising goal.

In November Coyne inflicted more misery on The Arabs when he scored a brace in a 3-1 derby win at Tannadice as the Dundee fans taunted their rivals by thanking them for giving them Tommy Coyne to the tune that was well known at the time from a TV advert for Cadbury’s Roses. In his time at Dens Coyne would be a thorn in United’s side scoring five goals and playing in three wins and five draws.

Just after that win at Tannadice, the goal-hungry partnership of Coyne and Wright netted nine goals in four days as the Dark Blues raced to spectacular away wins at Falkirk (6-0) and Morton (7-1) with Coyne scoring a hat-trick against the Greenock side.

By then Coyne had scored twenty-eight goals and when Dundee’s New Year fixture was brought forward by 24 hours to January 1st, Tommy had the chance to grab the Daily Record’s ‘Goalden Shot’ title ahead of Ally McCoist whose Rangers side were playing in the Old Firm derby the following day.

The ‘Goalden Shot’ title was awarded to the first player to score thirty goals in all competitions in any division and Super Tommy grabbed the prize ahead of Super Ally with a brace against The Pars. To score thirty goals by New Year was a terrific achievement by Coyne and he was now in the running for the UEFA Golden Boot for Europe’s top flight league scorer.

Ultimately however Tommy would score thirty-three goals to finish third and win the Bronze Boot with the Golden Boot being won by Tanju Colak of Turkish club Galatasaray. Such was the interest in Turkey in how much of a threat Coyne was to Colak that Turkish reporters were often dispatched to Dens towards the end of the season to suss out their rival.

Coyne finished the season however as the Premier Division’s leading scorer and with a Tennents’ Sixes to winners’ also in his pocket, his total of thirty-seven goals was only bettered in Dundee’s top flight history by Dave Halliday’s 39 (38 league) in 1923/24, Alec Stott’s 39 (30 league) in 1948/49 and Alan Gilzean’s 52 (33 league) in 1963/64.

The following season saw Tommy playing for a new manager when Dave Smith took over from Jocky Scott but by the end of January, Smith resigned after only five league wins.

One of those wins was on Hogmanay when Coyne scored a double in a 2-0 win over Aberdeen to give Dundee their first home win over The Dons since the opening day of the inaugural Premier Division in 1975.

Coyne was again by then Dundee’s top scorer and The Dee had already turned down a £750,000 bid from West Ham United for The Cobra after Chairman Angus Cook had stated pre-season that neither Coyne nor Wright were for sale, “even for a million pounds.”

Dark Blue legend Gordon Wallace took over the reigns from Dundonian Smith in February 1989 and he felt there was already a basis of a reasonable side at Dens and wanted to build his team around Tommy Coyne. However within weeks of his arrival Coyne was on his way to Celtic as a replacement for Frank McAvennie for a Dens record fee of £500,000 and he was leaving behind a legacy of 60 goals in 109 games; a ratio of one goal every 1.8 games.

Coyne’s last goal for The Dee was against Liverpool Dens in Bobby Geddes’ testimonial but he took a couple of seasons to find his feet at Parkhead. In his third season however Tommy was again the Premier Division top goal scorer with eighteen goals in twenty-six games and scored fifty-two goals in four years at Celtic Park.

This was enough to earn Coyne an international call up by the Republic of Ireland which he qualified for through family connections but he was surprisingly sold to Tranmere Rovers early in 1993. His time at Prenton Park ended in tragedy however with the passing away of his wife and he returned to Scotland in November when he joined Motherwell for £125,000.

Tommy scored 59 goals in 132 games for The Steelmen and in 1994/95 he was again the Premier Division’s top goal scorer to become the only player to achieve that with three different clubs.

Tommy also created his own piece of Motherwell history when he became the first ‘Well player to play in a World Cup Finals in 1994 when he played in three of Ireland’s four matches and in total he won twenty-two caps for the Republic, scoring six goals.

In the summer of 1998 Jocky Scott re-signed The Cobra for newly promoted Dundee and he was part of the side to achieve Dundee’s highest ever Premier League finish of fifth; equalling Dundee’s highest league placing since they were Scottish Champion in 1962.

Tommy then returned to his first club Clydebank as player/manger in August 2000 and picked up the Scottish Second Division Manager of the Month a month later but he was released after six months when the club entered administration despite The Bankies being near the top of Division Two.

Soon after leaving Clydebank he joined Albion Rovers where he ended his playing career, turning out for the Coatbridge side at the age of 39.

Tommy Coyne is a legend at Dens Park where he will always be fondly remembered for his goal scoring exploits and he was inducted into the Dundee Football Club Hall of Fame in 2011. When he entered the room he was given a standing ovation as the assembled Dees sang ‘Super Tommy’ in his honour and when he received his Legends Award he was greeted with the song that was regularly sung to The Arabs when he played in Dark Blue saying ‘Thank you very much for Tommy Coyne, thank you very much, thank you very, very much!’

Honours at Dundee:
UEFA Bronze Boot: 1987/88
Daily Record Goalden Shot: 1987/88
Tennents’ Sixes winners: 1988

Appearances, Goals:
League: 96 + 9 subs, 50 goals
Scottish Cup: 14, 6 goals
League Cup: 7 + 1 sub, 4 goals
Totals: 127, 60 goals