Ralph Milne: Dazzling winger who shone during Dundee Utd's march to the European Cup semi-finals in 1984

Milne's career was ultimately marred by problems with drink, gambling and consequent under-achievement

Friday 02 October 2015 00:51
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Glory days: Milne in action for Dundee Utd in 1985
Glory days: Milne in action for Dundee Utd in 1985

To Dundee United fans who revelled in the championship-winning flair and goalscoring exploits of Ralph Milne in the first three-quarters of the 1980s, it is criminal how the perky Scottish raider has tended to be dismissed as a flop, even a figure of fun, for his efforts with Manchester United later in the decade.

That such a gifted individual's career was ultimately marred by problems with drink, gambling and consequent under-achievement is a shame, but it should not override his glory days with the Tannadice club.

After breaking into Jim McLean's improving side as a teenager in 1979-80, Milne was quick to make an impact on the right of the Terrors' attack, entertaining royally with his fearless audacity and a lethal finishing knack that could be savage or subtle at need.

His most memorable moment was opening the scoring with a sublime 25-yard chip in the 2-1 victory over Dundee at Dens Park which clinched the first – and so far only – league title in United's history on the last day of 1982-83.

That term he contributed 16 strikes in 34 games before going on to dazzle as McLean's men reached the semi-final of the 1983-84 European Cup, maddeningly losing 3-0 to Roma in Italy after winning 2-0 at Tannadice.

He remains the Terrors’ top scorer in continental competition, with 15 goals in 39 appearances

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Milne, whose only international honours were three under-23 caps, flourished at this exalted level and he remains the Terrors' top scorer in continental competition, with 15 goals in 39 appearances.

However, the talented Dundonian was a free spirit whose relationship with the stern McLean became strained – and in January 1987, having contributed 74 hits in 285 outings for his home-town club, he accepted a move to English top-flight strugglers Charlton Athletic.

He helped the Addicks to escape relegation but never settled at Selhurst Park, nor with third-tier Bristol City, whom he joined in January 1988, so he was both stunned and delighted by the £170,000 deal which took him to Old Trafford in November 1988.

With Alex Ferguson in the process of building a new team, there was scope for Milne to thrive, but usually he was shoe-horned on to the unfamiliar left flank to accommodate Gordon Strachan on the right, and he was unable to do himself justice in his 30 outings for a spluttering side, before brief service with Sing Tao of Hong Kong ended his career.

IVAN PONTING

Ralph Milne, footballer; born Dundee 13 May 1961; played for Dundee United 1979-87, Charlton Athletic 1987-88, Bristol City 1988, Manchester United 1988-91, Sing Tao 1991-92; died Dundee 6 September 2015.

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