Jimmy Bone looks back on his time at Bramall Lane and makes a bold claim about Chris Wilder as he remembers Sheffield United's last game against their namesakes from Dundee

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Jimmy Bone was relaxing in the living room at his house near Kincardine when it emerged Sheffield United’s preparations for the new season would begin with a visit to Tannadice; the home of their namesakes from Dundee.

The announcement evoked many happy memories for the former Scotland international. But one in particular stood out above the others: A Texaco Cup double header between the two sides which took place nearly half a century ago.

“When I found out The Blades were coming up here, lots of things came flooding back,” Bone, who featured in both outings for United, says. “Those were happy times. Really happy times. The spirit we had, the camaraderie, it was completely something else.”

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This afternoon’s friendly against Micky Mellon’s team marks United’s return to Tayside, 47 years after the two clubs were paired together in the now defunct tournament. The second installment of that first round tie proved to be a forgettable experience for the men from England, with a brace from Jim Henry settling the encounter following a goalless draw at Bramall Lane. Bone, perhaps unsurprisingly, remembers little of the fixture itself. But, coming six months after his arrival, it turned out to be a rare low point during a brief but, from Bone’s perspective, brilliant stint in South Yorkshire which saw him embrace United’s culture on and off the pitch.

“We used to have a Tuesday night out, Len Badger, Ted Hemsley, Alan Woodward and Tony Currie, all the boys came,” he remembers. “I’d started life down the mines, I was an electrician in the pits, and it reminded me so much of that - the togetherness was the same.

“We enjoyed ourselves off the pitch, don’t you worry about that. But, crickey, there was some real talent in that group. Forget that one up in Dundee, looking back I wonder how we didn’t win something with the ability we had.”

Bone, who joined United from Norwich City as one half of a swap involving Trevor Hockey, scored nine times in 31 league appearances before being transferred to Celtic. Charting his time south of the border, and describing the circumstances behind his departure, he offers a theory as to why a squad containing some of the most gifted individuals ever to wear a United jersey eventually broke up with only a promotion from the old Second Division to its name.

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“John Harris, who was the manager at the time, he was a lovely chap,” Bone says. “In fact, it was him going that turned out to be my downfall because when his replacement Ken Furphy came in, the first thing he said to me was ‘I won’t need to get to know you because I’m bringing in someone in your place.’

Sheffield United play Dundee United at Tannadice Park.Sheffield United play Dundee United at Tannadice Park.
Sheffield United play Dundee United at Tannadice Park.

“The only problem with John, a good manager, was that perhaps he wasn’t as switched on tactically as some. So what happened, because of that, was the likes of Len and Ted would often sort it out between themselves, which was the right thing to do. We’d look to give it to TC or Woody because those two could win a match on their own. But with a little more help from the sidelines, we could have done something really special I believe. Certainly in one of the cups. A lot of what we did was totally off the cuff.”

Inaugurated in 1970, and sponsored by the American petroleum company to promote its purchase of a chain of British filling stations, the Texaco Cup failed to capture the imagination of supporters despite pitting clubs from England, Scotland and Ireland against one another. But Currie, selected alongside Bone for the meetings with Dundee United, insists the footballers themselves relished the opportunity to pit their wits against unfamiliar opposition.

“It was something different wasn’t it,” he says. “I looked forward to it, because you’d be facing people you’d heard about but hadn’t met. I suppose, in a way, it was a bit like being in Europe.”

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“I can still picture little things about going up here, to Dundee,” Currie continues. “I was sat on the coach and the two grounds, Dundee United and Dundee, were so close together. Just across the road and that really stood out.”

Sheffield United legends Alan Woodward and Tony CurrieSheffield United legends Alan Woodward and Tony Currie
Sheffield United legends Alan Woodward and Tony Currie

Bone’s own recollections suggest it was better received by fans in Scotland than their counterparts in England. Particularly when, after the format was revised, he helped another of his former clubs St Mirren lift the Anglo-Scottish Cup, beating Bristol City 5-1 in the final.

“Where I’m from, near Stirling, there would be about 10 grounds within a short drive away, so people would travel to see the Scottish lads come up against the English teams and compare.”

Dundee United, back in the top-flight following a four year absence, should pose a fascinating test for Wilder’s men who finished ninth in the Premier League last term; only a season after being promoted from the Championship and three since lifting the League One title.

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“It’s brilliant to see them resurrected again,” Bone, now aged 70, says. “I tell all of the lads down the pub ‘Look at how they play. Look at what they’re doing.’ If we’d have had Chris Wilder in charge when all of us guys were there, I reckon we’d have gone on to achieve really big things. You can see the spirit there now is like what we had, all those years ago.”

Tony Currie unveils a plaque on the South Stand, named in his honour Tony Currie unveils a plaque on the South Stand, named in his honour
Tony Currie unveils a plaque on the South Stand, named in his honour

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