Frank Kopel: Footballer who became the focal point of a campaign to close a legal loophole for vascular dementia sufferers

 

Frank Kopel offered proof that there is life beyond Manchester United for all those young footballers who achieve a promising start to their career at Old Trafford, but then fail to make the grade as a Red Devil.

The polished, intelligently constructive full-back went on to play more than 400 games for Dundee United as they lifted the first major trophies in their history with successive Scottish League Cup triumphs in 1979-80 and 1980-81, and along the way he became a Tannadice cult idol, inspiring one group of fans to name themselves “Frank Kopel’s Travelling Shindig”.

In his fifties the former Scottish schoolboy international was diagnosed with vascular dementia and became the focal point of a campaign by his wife Amanda aimed at closing a legal loophole which denies free care to sufferers under 65. Amanda, who had been paying hundreds of pound a week in care fees, appeared in front of the public petitions committee of the Scottish Parliament and met health minister Alex Neil at Holyrood House in an attempt to change what she described as a discriminatory policy. As the movement, supported by leading figures from football and the entertainment business, gathered momentum, the minister promised to address the concerns.

Kopel became a Busby Babe as a 15-year-old amateur in 1964, turning professional two years later and making a dozen senior appearances before he slipped out of the first-team reckoning and accepted a £25,000 move to second-tier Blackburn Rovers in March 1969. He made little impact at Ewood Park and in 1972 was recruited by new Tannadice manager Jim McLean, becoming one of the most stylish and reliable full-backs in the league.

Kopel tasted Scottish Cup final action in 1974 and 1981 defeats by Celtic and Rangers, helped to survive a brush with relegation in 1976 and, best of all, there was League Cup glory at the expense of Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen, and Dundee. A team man who never sought the spotlight, he found himself in its glare in 1979 when he volleyed a spectacular goal against Anderlecht in Belgium which saw United through to the next round of the Uefa Cup.

Kopel was 33 when he stepped down two divisions to join Arbroath in 1982, remaining at Gayfield until 1983-84 and serving a spell as assistant manager, a role he later filled fleetingly with Forfar Athletic. His son, Scott, featured briefly for Dundee United, Chesterfield, Brechin City and Forfar.

IVAN PONTING

Frank Kopel, footballer; born Falkirk 28 March 1949; married Amanda (one son); died Kirriemuir, Angus 16 April 2014.

Comments