Ralph Milne

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Ralph Milne
Personal information
Full name Ralph Milne
Date of birth (1961-05-13) 13 May 1961 (age 54)
Place of birth Dundee, Scotland
Height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Playing position Midfielder
Youth career
Dundee Celtic BC
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1977–1987 Dundee United 179 (44)
1987–1988 Charlton Athletic 22 (0)
1988 Bristol City 30 (6)
1988–1991 Manchester United 23 (3)
1990 West Ham United (loan) 0 (0)
1991–1992 Sing Tao ? (?)
Total 254 (53)
National team
1981–1983 Scotland U21 3 (0)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (Goals).

Ralph Milne (born 13 May 1961) is a Scottish former footballer whose clubs included Dundee United, Charlton Athletic, Bristol City and Manchester United. He played as both an attacking midfielder or a winger.

Milne is best remembered as being part of the great Dundee United side of the 1980s that won a league championship and enjoyed many successful nights in European competition. As recognition of that fact, Milne has been inducted into the Dundee United Hall of Fame alongside several of his former team-mates such as Paul Sturrock, Eamonn Bannon, Davie Dodds, Paul Hegarty and David Narey.[1] Milne is often considered to be amongst some of the best Scottish footballers not to win a full cap for their country.[2]

Milne's career, however, was hampered by his heavy drinking,[3][4] and his best days were clearly behind him by the time he ended up at Manchester United in the late 1980s.[5]

Jim McLean, Milne's manager at Dundee United, summed up Milne's career and footballing ability when writing his own autobiography:-

"If I had an outstanding failure then it was Ralph Milne. He should have been playing in World Cups. He should have won a bundle of Scotland international honours. It was a tragedy that that boy was not playing for his country all the time. He had tremendous talent - and I failed with him. He did not have the right attitude to the game and I could not instil that into him."[6]

Club career[edit]

Dundee United[edit]

Milne made 285 appearances for Dundee United in major competitions and is the club's all-time top scorer in Europe (UEFA Cup and European Cup) with a tally of 15 goals.[7]

Milne signed for Dundee United in 1977 and after a couple of seasons in the reserves began to feature for the first team during season 1979-80. He scored his first goal during his full debut appearance on 28 July 1979. It was United's third goal in a 3–0 win over Dunfermline Athletic in a Drybrough Cup tie.[8] Milne scored his first league goal on 8 September 1979 in a 2–2 draw away against Celtic, netting the equaliser with an excellent long range shot.[9] By the end of his debut season, Milne had played 20 games, eight of which he was in the starting line-up for, and scored three goals.[10] The following season saw Milne become a regular in the Dundee United team, scoring 10 goals in 33 appearances.[10] He finished the season playing in the Scottish Cup Final side which lost 4–1 to Rangers in May 1981 after a replay.[11] Dundee United reached another final the following season on 28 November 1981. Milne scored the opening goal in the Scottish League Cup Final, latching onto a pass from Paul Sturrock and striking a low powerful shot past the Rangers goalkeeper. However Rangers went on to controversially win 2–1 after another goal for Dundee United, "scored" by Sturrock, had been disallowed for offside.[12] Milne also impressed in Europe that season, scoring against AS Monaco,[13] Borussia Moenchengladbach[14] and Winterslag (twice)[15] in the UEFA Cup.

Season 1982-83 proved to be a seminal year for both Dundee United and Milne. Dundee United finished Scottish League champions for the first and only time to date, finishing one point ahead of Celtic and Aberdeen in a tightly fought league campaign.[16] Milne's 16 goals in the league, playing wide right, were a significant contribution to United's league win.[10] One of the most high profile of these goals was on 20 April 1983 when Milne scored the winning goal in a 3–2 win over Celtic at Parkhead. He controlled an Eamonn Bannon cross from the right on his chest and volleyed the ball from 20 yards out past Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner. The win was all the more impressive given United had played most of the second half with ten men after Richard Gough was sent off after a clash with Celtic's Davie Provan.[17][18] On the last day of the season with Dundee United needing a win to guarantee the League title, Milne opened the scoring against local rivals Dundee with a skillfully executed long-distance chipped shot.[18][19] The match finished 2–1 to United, clinching their first ever league championship.[20] Milne achieved his highest goal tally in his career that season, scoring 21 goals in all competitions.[10]

Dundee United's league success saw them take part in the European Cup in 1983-84. Milne scored doubles against Hamrun Spartans[21] and Standard Liege[22] as United reached the semi-final.[18] United failed to reach the final, losing 2–3 on aggregate to AS Roma in an ill-tempered tie.[23][24] Dundee United also failed to retain their league title, finishing in third place and 10 points behind winner's Aberdeen.[25] Milne goal tally also dropped significantly from the previous year, down to five goals in the league and a total of 12 in all competitions.[10]

Milne was with Dundee United for a further three seasons and still a regular player in the team, although he scored less frequently. Milne's increasingly fractious relationship with manager Jim McLean was also becoming common knowledge; in December 1983 manager Jim McLean publicly criticised Milne, stating "I have tried to get the message across to him that it is when he is not playing well that he needs to work hardest. It is plainly not sinking in."[26] Ironically some months later in August 1984, it was Milne who scored both goals against Nottingham Forest in a pre-season testimonial match for McLean.[27]

Milne featured in a further two Cup Finals for United, losing 0–1 to Rangers in October 1984 in the Scottish League Cup Final[28] and losing 1–2 to Celtic in May 1985 in the Scottish Cup Final.[29] In season 1986-87 he played in the first three rounds of the UEFA Cup run (scoring once, against RC Lens in the first round)[30] which eventually saw the team beat Barcelona and Borussia Moenchengladbach on their way to the final. However Milne had left in January 1987 before these high profile games took place, sold to Charlton Athletic, having lost his place in the side to the up-and-coming Kevin Gallacher.[31]

Charlton Athletic[edit]

He was sold to English Football League First Division club Charlton Athletic in January 1987, but stayed there less than a year (in which he failed to score in 22 league games).

Bristol City[edit]

Milne dropped down two divisions to join Bristol City, where he was more successful with six goals in 30 Third Division games.

Manchester United[edit]

This was enough to convince Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson that he was still worth a contract with a top flight club, and in November 1988 he moved to Old Trafford in a £150,000 deal. Ferguson was looking to build a title winning side two years after joining United, but had seen his side finish second in the league the previous season and now they were on a winless run in the league that saw them mid table behind unfancied clubs including Millwall, Norwich City and Coventry City.

Milne managed three goals in 22 league appearances in 1988-89, the first on 3 December 1988 in a 3–0 home win over Charlton Athletic, which ended United's nine-match winless run (eight draws and a defeat) in the Football League First Division. He also found the net on Boxing Day in a 2–0 home win over Nottingham Forest, before scoring his third and final United goal on 25 March 1989 in a 2–0 home win over Luton Town, once again in the league.[32]

He was not a popular player with United fans and is regularly mentioned when the club's worst-ever players are being debated.[33] On 18 November 2009, at an inaugural dinner of the League Managers' Association Hall of Fame 1000 Club, celebrating the 18 men to have managed more than 1,000 domestic league or cup matches, Ferguson remarked that Milne was his worst signing, saying "I only paid £170,000 but still get condemned for it".[34][35]

After his arrival, United did recover their winning ways for a while and were third in the league by mid February, but another slump dragged them down to 11th in the final table.[36]

In September 1989, Ferguson signed left-winger Danny Wallace from Southampton.[37] Wallace was not a particularly successful buy for United, and was soon himself struggling to hold down a place in the first team, but the emergence of Lee Sharpe[38] meant that Milne was forced out of the first team picture at Old Trafford in 1989-90, making one substitute appearance in the league. During that season, as United struggled in the league but won the FA Cup, Milne was loaned out to West Ham United, where he made the final appearance of his career in a League Cup tie on 24 January 1990 away to Derby County.[39]

He remained on the United's payroll until 30 June 1991, when he was given a free transfer the month after his 30th birthday.

International career[edit]

Milne made his debut for the Scotland Under 21 side on 8 September 1981 when he on came as a substitute for Alan Brazil during a 4–0 win over Sweden in Edinburgh.[40] He made a further two appearances for the Under 21 side as an overage player in the autumn of 1983, playing against Belgium (0–0 at Dundee) and East Germany (1–1 at Iena, East Germany).[41] Milne did not score in any of his Under 21 appearances.

Milne was never capped by Scotland at senior level.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Milne has admitted to problems with alcoholism and gambling addiction during and after his playing career.[4][42]

Milne's manager at Dundee United, Jim McLean, has since stated that Milne would have had greater success in his career were it not for his problems with alcohol and discipline.[6][43]

Career statistics[edit]

Club Season League Cup Lg Cup Europe Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Dundee United 1979-80 13 2 0 0 4 0 2 0 19 2
1980-81 21 7 6 0 5 3 1 0 33 10
1981-82 35 8 4 0 8 2 8 4 55 14
1982-83 34 16 1 0 6 2 8 3 49 21
1983-84 25 5 4 0 10 3 8 4 47 12
1984-85 19 4 5 0 5 2 2 2 31 8
1985-86 18 2 2 0 3 2 6 1 29 5
1986-87 14 1 0 0 2 0 6 1 22 2
Total 179 45 22 0 43 14 41 15 285 74
Charlton Athletic 1986-87 12 0 N/A N/A N/A 12 0
1987-88 10 0 N/A N/A N/A 10 0
Total 22 0 N/A N/A N/A 22 0
Bristol City 1987-88 19 4 N/A N/A N/A 19 4
1988-89 11 2 N/A N/A N/A 11 2
Total 30 6 N/A N/A N/A 30 6
Manchester United 1988-89 22 3 7 0 0 0 0 0 29 3
1989-90 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Total 23 3 7 0 0 0 0 0 30 3
West Ham United (loan) 1989-90 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
Total 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
Career total 254 54 29 0 44 14 41 15 368 83



Dundee United


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