12-15-2016, 07:13 PM
Dundee travel to Celtic Park this weekend and so we take a look at a player who played for both clubs, Robert Douglas who for over 20 years now has been a hero to many with his wonderful goalkeeping exploits.
From The Den to Dens Park, from Livingston to Leicester, from Home Park to Hampden, from Celtic to the Chairboys and from Seville to Station Park, Rab has made over 600 senior appearances in over two decades in the game and is still going strong on the books at Arbroath despite being 44 years of age.
Born in Lanark on April 24th 1972, Robert James Douglas started his professional football career later than most when he signed for Meadowbank Thistle in 1993. Loaned back out to Junior side Forth Wanderers from where he was signed, Rab became Meadowbank’s first choice keeper upon his return and enjoyed a successful Third Division title winning season in 1995/96 after the club had relocated to West Lothian and were renamed Livingston.
After just missing out on back to back promotions the following season, Dundee boss John McCormack lured the 6ft 5in keeper to Dens Park in the summer of 1997 for a fee of £100,000 plus Kevin Magee. Douglas became an instant hit with the Dark Blue support with his commanding performances and excellent shot stopping ability and made the best possible start by keeping the first of his 98 clean sheets against promotion rivals Falkirk in a 3-0 win on the opening day of the season.
That was the first of forty-four competitive appearances for Rab in his debut year and was the first of twenty clean sheets on the way to winning the First Division title while being an ever present in the side. The most impressive of those came at Ibrox in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup when Dundee held the Scottish Champions at bay with a 0-0 draw. Dundee also managed to keep thirty-goal Marco Negri quiet and a series of brilliant saves by Douglas helped earn a replay in front of the SKY Sports cameras.
Rab’s performance in Govan was one of a number of top drawer outings he enjoyed that season with a match against Raith Rovers in October being particularly memorable for a number of breathtaking saves. By the end of the season Dundee were Scottish First Division Champions with Rab conceding just twenty-four league goals and his performances earned him a call up to the Scotland ‘B’ side where he won his first international honour against Wales at Broadwood.
Dundee goal keeping coach Billy Thomson was full of praise for the ex-bricklayer, bouncer and part-time fireman stating that “he has a great presence and I love the way he comes for crosses” and with promotion being secured in no small thanks to Rab’s contribution, he was awarded with the Andrew De Vries Memorial Trophy for Dundee Player of the Year trophy at the end of the season.
Dundee’s return to the top flight after a four year absence saw them secure their highest finish since 1974 and was the first time Dundee had finished above Dundee United for twenty-five years with Rab making the most appearances of any player, missing just one.
It was another terrific season for Douglas which included two clean sheets at Tannadice in two derby wins as Dundee defeated United twice on their neighbours patch for the first time since 1944/45.
In the derby in November in front of a live television audience, Dundee secured their first win over the Arabs since 1995 and while James Grady’s wonder strike grabbed the headlines in the 1-0 win, it was the heroic saves of Douglas which did as much to win the day.
One save in particular with only seven minutes left is without doubt one of the greatest saves ever made by a Dundee goalkeeper. With United piling on the pressure, Swedish striker Kjell Olofsson fired the ball into the ground from about ten yards out and as it bounced high towards the top left hand corner of the net, Rab somehow managed to get a finger tip to the ball and touch it over the bar.
It is a save which lives long in the memory in a match which cemented Rab’s place in Dark Blue folklore and it broke Arab hearts so much that one of them even invaded the pitch at the end to confront the big keeper which he handled with the same skill that he had handled United’s attacks all night.
Rab continued as Dundee’s number one for his second full season under Jocky Scott and when Jocky’s contract wasn’t renewed at the end of the 1999/2000 season, Dundee turned to a more continental style under former Juventus man Ivano Bonetti.
Despite Bonetti bringing in a host of foreigners, Douglas kept the goalkeeping position but by October Celtic came in with a £1.2 million which was too good to refuse and Rab was on his way for the highest fee ever received for a Dundee player. An emotional farewell in front of a packed away end at Pittodrie for a match which Claudio Caniggia made his debut was Rab’s last action before the move to Parkhead which was to bring him three S.P.L. titles, three Scottish Cups, eighteen international caps, Champions League experience and an appearance in the U.E.F.A. Cup Final.
In his debut season Rab set an SPL clean sheet record of seven consecutive clean sheets and a successful first season at Celtic Park was capped off with his first major honours winning an SPL title and Scottish Cup winners’ medal.
Rab was again a Double winner in his second season, won the SPL Player of the Month in November and earned praise for an outstanding performance away to Valencia in the UEFA Cup that same month.
There was more UEFA Cup glory the following year when Celtic reached the UEFA Cup Final in May 2003 and Rab had played a pivotal role en route to Seville. In was a terrific achievement to reach the final of a major European competition but unfortunately they couldn’t complete the dream when they lost 3-2 to Jose Mourinho’s Porto.
It was during his spell at Parkhead that Rab won his first full international cap for Scotland in Berti Vogts’ first home game in charge against Nigeria at Pittodrie in April 2002. He has been called up for a number of squads before without getting stripped – including the previous Scotland game against France in Paris which caused Rab to miss the birth of his daughter Brooke – but in the next three years would establish himself as Scotland’s Number one. The highlight of his time between the sticks for the national side was the 1-0 win over The Netherlands at Hampden in a Euro 2004 play-off and he would win eighteen full caps while with Celtic.
Rab won another SPL title in 2004 and his third Scottish Cup twelve months later and after five years in the East End of Glasgow, he moved down south to Leicester City (where he picked up his nineteenth cap for Scotland) in a spell which also saw him turn out for Millwall, Wycombe Wanderers and Plymouth Argyle on loan. As his contract ran out, Rab was on the verge of giving up his playing days and moving to the United States to do some coaching but a last minute intervention from father-in-law Peter Marr and Dundee CEO Dave McKinnon persuaded the popular former Dee to return to Dens Park and sign for Alex Rae’s side.
It proved to be a great move for both Club and player as Rab turned in some fantastic displays and won the Player of the Year trophy for the second time at The Dee’s end of season dinner at the Hilton in May 2009. It was like he had never been away.
Midway through his first season back, Jocky Scott replaced Alex Rae in the Dens Park hotseat and Rab’s former boss made him Club captain in the summer of 2009. In November Dundee would win the ALBA Challenge Cup in a thrilling 3-2 win over Inverness in Perth and Rab, along with team captain Eric Paton had the honour of lifting the trophy as he collected his second winners’ medal in his time at Dens.
When Dundee tragically lurched into administration for the second time the following season, Rab was the embodiment of the Dee-Fiant spirit that saw the Club claw back the twenty-five point penalty that been imposed on them by the Scottish League. Appointed co- assistant manager alongside Matt Lockwood under Barry Smith after the administrator wielded his axe, Rab was an inspiration, often playing through injury and at the end of the season won the Player of the Year trophy for an unprecedented third time; a record unlikely to ever be beaten.
When Dundee gain an unexpected promotion to the top tier after the demise of Rangers in 2012, Rab put in some terrific displays in the SPL, most notably at Tynecastle and Celtic Park where he saved a penalty in each game and with 98 clean sheets he is now third in the all-time Dundee clean sheet record list – although Rab claims he has 99 clean sheets as he failed to concede a goal before being sent off against Partick at Dens in October 2011.
Although many were unhappy at the nature of Rab’s departure from Dens in the summer of 2013, he found a new home not too far away at Station Park, Forfar where he combined his playing duties with that of goalkeeping coach. After starting the season on the bench, he has firmly established himself as Dick Campbell’s number one and it is while playing for The Loons that Rab recorded his 600th club career appearance. This fantastic achievement came against Rangers in January in an SPFL League One match and it is fitting that the SKY Sports television cameras were there to record a wonderful personal feat.
Douglas was reunited with Campbell this earlier season when he joined him at Arbroath as cover for on loan Aberdeen keeper Robbie Mutch and has so far featured on the bench a couple of times in the Scottish Cup.
A hero, a legend, a top class goalkeeper and a thoroughly decent bloke, Robert Douglas has a special place in the hearts of many of the supporters who saw him play for club and country and when he finally hangs up those big gloves, Scottish Football will be will be a sadder place.
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish League First Division winner: 1997/98
Scottish League Challenge Cup winner: 2009/10
DSA Player of the Year: 1998, 2009, 2011
Honours at Celtic:
Scottish Premier League winner: 2000/01, 2001/02, 2003/04
Scottish Cup winner: 2001, 2002, 2005
UEFA Cup runner-up: 2002/03
Scottish League Cup runner-up: 2002/03
Honours with Scotland:
Scotland Full caps: 19
Scotland ‘B’ cap 1
Dundee FC Appearances:
League: 269 + 1 sub
Scottish Cup: 15
League Cup: 14
Challenge Cup: 4