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Bowman eyes cup double for city


GLASGOW may dominate the major league championships, with Celtic and Rangers still vying for the SPL and Glasgow Hawks having won rugby’s Division 1 title, but football and rugby teams from the City of Discovery are ganging up on the cups.

A city with a population of more than 140,000, Dundee remains a sporting under-achiever. Dundee FC have struggled since the halcyon days of the early 1960s while rivals United have never managed to recapture the success which had them forming the "New Firm" with Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen in the 1980s.

Success on the rugby field has been even more scarce. Yet as Dundee and United clash in the Tayside derby, today is the start of the bid for a glorious treble for the city.

Dundee HSFP take to Murrayfield in rugby’s BT Cup final before Dundee United face Celtic in the Tennent’s Scottish Cup final on 28 May, and Lochee United take on Tayport in the Junior Cup final in Dundee the following day.

It almost goes without saying that Dave Bowman, the former United and Scotland midfielder, is as passionate about football in Dundee as anyone, but the current assistant to Gordon Chisholm also knows more than most at Tannadice about the oval ball, and is disappointed not to be able to watch this afternoon’s game at Murrayfield. He was after all taught by Jim Telfer, legendary Scotland and British and Irish Lions coach.

"I was a pupil at Portobello High School when Jim was there as a teacher and we all had to take rugby in our first year," he says. "I don’t remember any resentment, even though most of us were football boys.

"The head teacher at the time was keen for us to try something different and I actually enjoyed rugby. It probably suited my type of football more. I could get away with things in rugby that I never could in football so maybe I chose the wrong sport!"

"Obviously, rugby is a very different sport, but you’d be surprised how many aspects of each interlink. We’ve even taken the players at Tannadice down to the beach when the weather’s been bad and played touch rugby.

"But we’re delighted for the rugby team because it all helps the sporting profile of the city. When I was at school rugby wasn’t professional and so kids like myself who liked their football would always go that way. It’s different now of course and rugby provides a real alternative for ambitious youngsters to have a career in sport.

"I think the reason rugby in Dundee hasn’t been up there with the best is probably because of the way the game has been linked to private schools and there’s only one here, but hopefully another cup final appearance, and maybe a win this time, will help the sport move forward here."

IT SEEMS the young Bowman made a big impression on Telfer, who taught at the school between 1975 and 1978. "David was one of many talented footballers we had through the school," he recalls. "I remember Chris Robertson, John’s brother, who played for Rangers and Hearts, and they all played rugby. It wasn’t me, it was the head teacher at the time, but it was a good policy which helped boys taste something different.

"I don’t know how David would have done in rugby had he continued, but there were quite a few good rugby players among them at Portobello."

Dundee’s rugby team are first into the cup final cauldron when they arrive at Murrayfield this afternoon to face Boroughmuir. Like United, who face Celtic at the end of the month, they are underdogs, ’Muir being the Division 1 side and Dundee a division below. It is, however, the second time Dundee HSFP have reached the final in successive years, and Bowman believes that will make a difference.

"Almost their whole team played last year, I understand, so they will know what it’s like and will know that getting there is only half the battle - winning it is what you really want."

Dundee HSFP represent the independent school whose name they bear, but they have been "open" for some time and only six of today’s squad are former pupils. Concern remains that the perception they are the high school’s team may discourage potential rugby stars from Dundee’s state secondary schools, and the link with the private school has been discussed in much the same way as it has in most Scottish cities.

The Edinburgh side Heriot’s have dropped the FP part of their name while in Glasgow, Southern merged with Hutchesons’ Aloysians to become GHA, and there is also no longer a "former pupils" tag.

Dundee, however, rely heavily on the school for support, most visibly with the £3m sports centre currently being built at Mayfield and funded largely by the school. They also take rugby seriously and have twice recently reached the Scottish Schools Cup final, and have a great tradition of producing rugby players.

Rugby and football, particularly, are beginning to take a stronger hold through the 41 primary and ten secondary schools, covering over 16,000 pupils, throughout Dundee.

David Nicoll, sports development officer for Dundee City Council’s Education Department, believes the cup final appearances may be just the start. "I was a PE teacher for 20 years, and in early 1970s there was a very strong sporting culture in Dundee," he said. "It faded in secondary schools, particularly in the 1980s, though teachers’ strikes were only part of the story, but there is a wide recognition that Scotland is falling behind in world sport, so we have to create more and better sporting opportunities for our youngsters.

"The fact that we have the rugby team at Murrayfield this weekend, United and the junior teams in finals, and the ice hockey team, Dundee Texol Stars, also having picked up a British title this year, are definite signs that sport is beginning to take off again in Dundee. Clearly success helps - when kids see teams doing well it enthuses them to reach that standard and so this is great."

Dundee United have organised tickets for the Tennent’s Scottish Cup final for the rugby club, and Bowman added: "The derby rules us out of going to Murrayfield - it’s a pity it’s not next weekend because we’ve got a Sunday game - but while our game will be pretty intense this weekend I think it’s important that there is support across the sports in the city.

"This is a great way to finish what has been a tough season for United. I’ve been in this position before when we won the cup - we were closer to relegation than it looked at the finish - but having a cup final to look forward definitely helps bring an edge to the players.

"We’ve got four big games coming up now and, hopefully, at the end we’ll all be talking about Dundee sporting clubs and silverware being pretty good friends."

Taken from the Scotsman

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