No More (Cult) Heroes – Rab Douglas

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Goalkeepers.

If ever Martin O’Neill had a blind spot, boy was this it.

By comparison with the fiscal probity that reigned at Celtic Park  at the time, when he first came to the club MON was throwing dosh around like confetti.

Hence Dundee must have been thrilled when the ‘buy it now’ price of £1.5 million was realised for big Rab.

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He went straight into the first team, but when you consider that the others vying for the gloves were Johnny Gould and Dmitri Kharine that’s hardly much of a compliment.

In truth, he wasn’t actually that bad a goalkeeper – most of the time.

Indeed he was capable of producing outstanding performances between the sticks. In the UEFA Cup tie against Valencia in Spain, for example, big Rab saved us from a real hiding. There’s no doubt that he could be a good shot stopper and even managed a couple of penalty saves.

But there’s more to this eccentric position than that, and Rab had an unfortunate proclivity which ensured that he will go down in the collective folk memory for all the wrong reasons. Like John Fallon, another Celtic goalie from a different era, Rab was an affable and likeable big guy who could be brilliant but was prone to dropping the most spine-twisting clangers, most memorably against Rangers (now in liquidation).

Helpfully assisting a speculative Gregory Vignal (Who he? Ed)effort into the back of his net in a fraught Glasgow derby was but one in a catalogue of blunders against the one team in the SPL where it used to be absolutely vital for the goalie to keep his concentration.

Indeed Rab’s big game temperament was always a bit suspect, although I think it’s a bit harsh to single him out for extra blame for the UEFA final defeat.

His main weaknesses were an inability to deal convincingly and consistently with crosses – one tabloid tried to do a hatchet job on him by featuring pictures of Rab coming out for crosses with his eyes shut – and a lack of conviction when bossing defenders in front of him. When you stop to think about it, that’s two major flaws in any goalie’s CV.

Rab Douglas always did his best when playing for Celtic and seemed to derive as much pleasure as anybody when it came to achieving success. You could never grudge him it, but you can’t help thinking he was a lucky bhoy to get the chance all the same.

The arrival on the scene of the more technically competent Marshall saw the writing on the wall for big Rab and he left us to join the colony of ex-Celts at Leicester City, where he seemed sure to get a lot of practice on matchdays.

He was replaced at the Walkers Stadium late in the 2005-06 season by Paul Henderson and was placed on the transfer list alongside Mark de Vries and Alan Maybury.

Big Rab was handed a trial spell at Motherwell (his boyhood club) but was unable to agree a deal.

He briefly joined Millwall on an emergency 4 week loan then Wycombe Wanderers on a 3 month loan deal, making three appearances.

On 15 May 2008 he was released by Leicester as his contract was close to expiring and rejoined Dundee on a free transfer as one of Alex Rae’s first signings. Rae later got the sack but the two events would seem to be unconnected.

Rab started and played the full 90 minutes every Dundee game of the 2008/09 season and went on to help them back into the SPL following the death of Rangers (now in liquidation) last summer.

On one of his last visits to Celtic Park he saved a penalty against us. It wasn’t grudged and he’s welcome back any time.

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Above: Rab demonstrates he’s not at all like the lazy stereotype of a nutty goalkeeper by sitting down inside Ibrox during a Glasgow derby and eating a pepperami snack thrown away by a disgruntled bluenose because of the green wrapper. Just another Saturday.

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