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Played for Dundee and Hearts – William Muir
[Image: heartsbuillmuir.jpg]

Dundee entertain Heart of Midlothian in this Friday’s festive fixture and so we look at the career of a player who played for both clubs, Scotland international keeper William Muir.

Muir continued the fine tradition of Dundee having good goalkeepers in the first decade of the 20th century by playing in two sides who were runners-up in the Scottish League Championship and winning one Scotland full cap and two Scottish League caps during his five years at Dens.

William ‘Billy’ Muir was born in Ayr on September 22nd 1872 and started his football career with Ayshire side Glenbuck Cherrypickers where he was capped for Scotland at Junior level.

Glenbuck is a mining village in Ayshire and the birthplace of Dundee Championship winning manager Bob Shankly and the Glenbuck Cherrypickers were notable for the high number of professional footballers that they produced, despite only existing for around fifty years. Between their creation in the early 1870s, and their demise in 1931, the team produced some fifty professional footballers including four of the Shankly brothers.

Bob Shankly and Billy Muir are two of seven Glenbuck players to have played for Scotland in their careers and this is despite the village having a population of around 1,000.

In February 1896 Billy made the step up to senior football with Third Lanark but less than a year later moved back to Ayrshire to Kilmarnock. However he was only at Rugby Park for three months when he was transferred to Everton for £45 and he made his debut for The Toffees on November 6th 1897 away at West Bromwich Albion.

After five years at Goodison Muir joined Dundee in the closed season of 1902 and made his debut on the first game of the season at home to Queens Park in a 2-0 win. Muir played in every match in the 1902/03 season, keeping 20 clean sheets in all competitions  as The Dee finished as League Championship runners up to Hibernian, reached the Scottish Cup semi-final and won the Forfarshire Cup and Dewar Shield.

Dundee were desperate for Scottish Cup success and the run to the semi-final caught the imagination of the Dundee footballing public.

Home wins over Barholm Rovers (walkover) and Nithsdale Wanderers (7-0) set up a third round clash with league leaders Hibernian and five special trains took over 4000 Dundonians to Edinburgh for the game. A stirring contest finished 0-0 and the tie was replayed in Dundee the following Saturday where local enthusiasm reached fever pitch.

There were unprecedented scenes at Dens when the gates were closed before kick off with thousands of disappointed fans still clamouring for entry. Inside there was congestion behind both goals with youngsters hoisted over the heads of their elders and deposited on the track for safety.

Outside the enclosure desperate fans finally wrenched over open a gate and hundreds more rushed in. Despite a baton charge by several constables the mob continued to pour through the breach and many fans were knocked over by the falling gate and trampled by the oncoming crowd.

The game itself was another no scoring thriller and although the official attendance of 24,000 was a new Dens Park record, it was believed that at least 2000 more had gained admission by illegal means.

Ibrox was the venue for the second replay and once again there was little between the side but it was Dundee who sneaked through 1-0 thanks to a wind assisted effort from Alan Bell 25 minutes from time.

In the semi-final Dundee were paired with Hearts at Dens (when semis weren’t played on neutral grounds) and Dundee provided extra accommodation for another anticipated large crowd. In front of 22,000 the side fought out a dour 0-0 and a week later 32,000 (including 5000 Dees) turned up at Tynecastle to watch Hearts sneak through to the final with a late Porteous goal.

Muir had kept five clean sheets in six Scottish Cup ties but The Dee had to wait another seven years until they finally brought the Scottish Cup back to Dens.   

Remarkably only 12 goals were conceded in the 22 game League campaign and Muir was rewarded for his performances by being called up for the Scottish League to play against the English League on March 14th 1903.

Muir was on the short side for a ‘No. 1’ at just 5ft 10’ but was a brilliant keeper, reputed to be a good handler and an excellent distributor of the ball.

In his next four years at Dens, Muir would miss just 7 games for the Dark Blues and in his last season with the Club in 1906/07, he would again be part of a side that would finish as Scottish League runners-up, this time behind Celtic.

Billy’s Championship challenging form was again rewarded with international honours when he kept a clean sheet for the Scottish League in a 0-0 draw with the English League on March 2nd 1907 and made his full Scotland debut against Ireland at Celtic Park two weeks later.

Playing alongside future Dundee manager Alec McNair Scotland won 3-0 in front of 26,000 but it was described as a poor performance in the press and Billy was amongst a number of the team who weren’t capped again.

Shortly afterwards Muir moved south of the border again at the end of the season to Bradford City where he won a Football League Division Two championship medal. He never got a chance to play in the First Division however as in May 1908 he moved to Tynecastle where he spent two seasons playing 85 times and keeping 23 clean sheets for Hearts.

At the surprisingly young age of 33 (for a goalkeeper) Billy retired but he came out of retirement in 1911 and joined Dumbarton who had to pay his last club Hearts for his services.

For Dundee Muir made 147 appearances, keeping 62 clean sheets and as the second Dundee goalkeeper to be capped for Scotland helped start the tradition of Dundee goalkeeping greats that continues to this day.

Honours at Dundee:

Scottish League Championship runners-up: 1902/03, 1906/07

Scotland full caps: 1

Scottish League caps 2


League: 131

Scottish Cup: 16

Total: 147

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