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DEREK DOUGAN


Born: 20 January, 1938, in Belfast. Died: 24 June, 2007, in Wolverhampton, aged 69.

Alexander Derek Dougan, a tall, lean centre forward, is best remembered for his nine-year period with Wolverhampton Wanderers, where he is remembered as the only player to have scored a hat-trick in European competition.

The son of a shipyard worker, he was an outspoken critic of authority and chaired the Professional Footballers Association. After retiring in 1977, he served Wolves as both chairman and chief executive and also became involved in politics - he stood as an independent Westminster parliamentary candidate in East Belfast in 1997 - and in writing, with the publication of an autobiography entitled The Sash I Never Wore.

Like George Best, Dougan took his first steps into football with Cregagh Boys Club in Belfast. He signed for Irish League club Distillery at the age of 16, and won the Irish Cup in his second of three seasons. By 1957, 76 appearances and 17 goals had earned him his breakthrough: a transfer to Portsmouth.

In 1958, at the age of 20, he travelled with Northern Ireland to the World Cup finals in Sweden, where he made his debut in a 1-0 win over Czechoslovakia.

Back in England, the young Dougan had a habit of spending two seasons at a club before moving on. From Portsmouth to Blackburn and on to Aston Villa, Peterborough United and Leicester City, he consistently scored a goal every two games in all these two-year stints.

The closest he came to silverware in that ten-year period was the 1960 FA Cup final.  Dougan, scored twice in a semi-final victory over Sheffield but shocked fans by asking for a transfer on the eve of the game – Wolves would win the game 3-0.

He would move to Wolves in 1967 and became so popular with the fans that some nicknamed him "Mr Wolves". Playing through the peak of his career and well into his thirties, Dougan made 323 appearances for Wolves and scored 123 goals, helping at first to maintain their top-flight survival and then helping them to finish fourth in 1970-71.  The following year they reached the UEFA cup final before losing 3-2 on aggregate to Tottenham Hotspur.

In the twilight of his career Dougan finally got his winner’s medal when Wolves defeated Manchester City 2-1 in the League Cup final.  He made his last appearance for Northern Ireland on Valentine's Day 1973, in a World Cup qualifier in Cyprus that ended in a 1-0 defeat. He had made himself unpopular with many north of the border by advocating a combined Ireland soccer team.

After a few guest appearances in the United States and a stint as player/manager of Kettering Town, Dougan worked as a disc jockey, a broadcaster and a newspaper columnist. Tough, controversial and in later years seen as something of an eccentric, he remains one of the greatest footballing talents to emerge in Northern Ireland.