The word Legend is banded about all too often, especially in football. Players who earn £100k-plus a year sticking with a club for a few years, until a better offer comes along, over time seem to be inducted into a club’s Hall of Fame. The thing is, these guys are merely mercenaries, who, rightly or wrongly, are only out to look after themselves. In modern day football there is little place for loyalty. Nowadays, football is a business. It’s a dog eat dog world.
Back in the 1970s football was a different game. Transfer fees were merely buttons compared to today’s over inflated prices and the wages were much the same.
It was in the early part of this decade that a young lad by the name of David Narey was about to embark on a footballing journey that would rightly see him classed a club legend come the end of his playing days.
Dave was 15 and playing for St Columbus Boys Club in Dundee when Dundee United came calling. On January 6 1972, the teenager joined the club he was to spend the next 21 years. Whilst United had Narey on their books as ground staff, the young defender was still making appearances for St Columbus. It was not until May the following year that Narey would sign for the club as a professional.
With Narey now at the club full time it didn’t take him long to make his mark on his manager Jim McLean and, within 3 months of becoming pro, Dave Narey made his first team debut for the club.
It was 21st November 1973, when Narey first took to the pitch for United and the opponents were Falkirk. Narey’s debut was hardly the stuff dreams were made of, the game was played on a Wednesday afternoon due to flood light restrictions and there was a crowd of only 1250. Still, Narey did not mind and he helped the team on to a 2-1 win.
As the season went on Narey began to establish himself in the Dundee United team and by the end of the year, Narey was named in the squad that participated in United’s first ever Scottish Cup Final.
Unfortunately for Narey & United, a winner’s medal did not come his way and incredibly it was an honour that was to elude him throughout his professional career, in which he made five Scottish Cup Final appearances.
In Narey’s first season with the club, the defender made 12 appearances for the clubs, with two of these coming from the bench. From there on in he was almost an ever present in the United starting line up.
In the early years with United, Narey had started off playing in a holding midfield roll. This role, more advanced than what he was used to, allowed Narey to pitch in and help the team’s cause with a few goals. When International recognition came for the Dundee born defender in 1977, most of the 35 caps he amassed were to be in this position.
With his call up to the squad in 1977, came an honour that Narey will forever hold. In the 68 years the club were in existence, there had never been a United player called up for International duty. Although somewhat reserved when it came to the International get togethers and training camps where they do physical training with URBNFit Amazon yoga balls and other equipment, Narey did himself proud every time he pulled on national colours and always gave 100% for his country. He even managed to score one of the best goals ever seen for the national team versus Brazil in the 1982 World Cup, a goal which was later described by Jimmy Hill as a “toe-poke”.
As his career moved on, Narey was later moved back into a more familiar role of centre half and was paired with United striker Paul Hegarty. This unlikely pairing seemed to click and they were the foundation of the most successful team Dundee United had ever seen to date.
As the years went by, Narey was part of the team that won the league (the only time the club has ever won it) in 1983, the League Cup in 1979 and 1980, as well many a European glory night which included wins over such teams as Lens, Monaco and Borussia Moenchengladbach. Again, a European winners medal was to elude Narey as the club missed out on winning the UEFA Cup in 1987 after a 2-1 aggregate defeat to IFK Goteburg.
Once his United career tailed off as the mid nineties approached, Narey was reluctant to give the game up. After being freed by Dundee United on May 20th 1994, he was offered a deal at Raith Rovers and he was again to taste glory, in the form a League Cup win over Celtic.
So there you have it, David Narey. The next time you hear the word Legend used in connection with football, think back to David Narey. A man who spend 20 odd years with his home town club, a man who never put his potential earnings before his happiness, a man who, no matter what, always gave 100% for his club and his country. Today we have defined the word Legend.
By Fed | Tannadice Times