|League||FA Cup||Other Cups||TOTAL||Competitive||Friendlies||Other (War)|
Other Cups may include: Anglo-Scottish Cup, Challenge Cup, Cup Winners' Cup, Drybrough Cup, International Soccer League, League Cup, Summer Cup, Texaco Cup.
Julián Speroni fits into that category of Dundee Goalkeeping Great by making what many fans consider not one, but three of the greatest saves ever made by a Dark Blues’ keeper. Signed under freedom of contract from Argentinean side Athletico Platense by Italian manager Ivano Bonetti in the summer of 2001, Speroni was joining The Dee’s attractive, cosmopolitan side that already included fellow Argentines Juan Sara, Fabian Caballero and Walter Del Rio.
Dundee had been on the look out for a keeper when Marco Roccatti returned to Bologna after a year long loan and Bonetti had been alerted to Speroni’s potential by one of his Italian contacts. Speroni was only too happy to come to Scotland after being subjected to gun touting, knife wielding, fanatical, Platense fans in the dressing room after a defeat to their rivals and in his three years at Dens became a cult figure between the sticks.
Speroni’s debut was delayed however after he had problems obtaining an Italian passport which he was entitled to through his grandfather. Julián required a European passport to stop him needing a work permit but the delay in obtaining one meant young goalkeeper Jamie Langfield started the season in goal in the UEFA Intertoto Cup match against Yugoslavs FK Sartid Smederevo
By the time his passport came through in October, Langfield had established himself as number one and Speroni had to wait until a Scottish Cup tie at home to Falkirk in January to get his chance. His debut was encouraging in the 1-1 draw but Bonetti put Langfield back in for the next league match but a poor performance by Jamie in a 4-2 defeat at Motherwell meant Julián, wearing squad number 12 was recalled for the next match at home to Hibs.
An excellent performance in the 1-0 win gave Speroni not only his first Dark Blue clean sheet but also the chance to claim the number one spot for the rest of the season which he grabbed. Despite not making his debut until January, Speroni won a number of the supporters clubs’ Player of the Year awards in May such had been the high level of his performances.
In the next year, season 2002/03, with Jim Duffy now in charge, Speroni was an ever present and it was a momentous year with a fourteen match unbeaten run, a top six finish, unbeaten against bitter rivals Dundee United for the first time since 1989 and a Scottish Cup Final appearance for the first time in thirty-nine years.
On the ‘Road to Hampden’ for the Final against Rangers, Speroni was a key player with clean sheets in the third, fourth and semi-final rounds. In the fourth round tie against Aberdeen in particular, Speroni was immense and he made a save from a free kick that Dons manager Steve Paterson described “one of the best saves I’ve ever seen” on the television highlights at night.
With the score at 1-0 to Dundee on the half hour, The Dons were awarded a free kick just outside the box. Frenchman Eric Deloumeaux took the kick and when it took a wicked deflection off the wall, it looked a goal all the way. Speroni however had other ideas and when he had started moving to his right, he somehow managed to twist in mid air, stretch his arm out to the left to make the stop to keep The Dee ahead and they would eventually go on to win 2-0.
After winning the semi 1-0 against Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Hampden on Easter Sunday, Dundee lost the Final 1-0 but with Rangers also clinching the SPL title the week before, Dundee qualified for the UEFA Cup. It was to be the Dark Blues’ first foray into premier European competition for twenty-nine years and Speroni, now wearing squad number one, was again magnificent, pulling off two world class saves against Vllaznia and Perugia.
In the preliminary round Dundee drew KS Vllaznia from the northern Albanian town of Shkoder and as it was only fifty miles from Kosovo, the British Foreign Office was advising Dundee not to travel. Albania would have been far from the first choice for the Dark Blues to make their European return and considering their section of the draw could have paired The Dee with a side from Estonia, the Faroes Isles, Northern Ireland or Andorra, the media were dubbing it ‘the draw from hell’. It was going to be very much a trip into the unknown.
A baking hot temperature of 98 degrees awaited the pale Dundonian skin when the flight touched down in the capital Tirana but sunbathing was far down the list of priorities. For the players and coaching staff, they immediately headed north to Skhoder as UEFA rules insisted that the away team arrive at the match destination at least twenty-four hours before kick-off while the rest of the party that included directors, fans and press, stayed in Tirana for a night in the newly opened Sheraton hotel overlooking the National Stadium and partied the night away in the local pubs and clubs.
The 90km trip from Tirana to Shkoder turned out to be a nightmare three-hour bus journey for both groups; the last 25 km of which took ninety minutes. The new main road wasn’t due to be finished until October so instead it was a mountainous detour on a dirt-track of a road which allowed a perfect view of the somewhat bemusing sight of cars and caravans left deposited on the top of single-storey buildings and abandoned sniper turrets in the countryside. Even when the bus eventually arrived on the outskirts of Shkoder, another detour had to be found as the bridge over the river into the town had been blown up so recently that it had been there when manager Jim Duffy had been out on his fact finding mission a few weeks previously.
Eventually when the directors and fans’ bus arrived at Shkoder on match day it was accompanied by a heavy police presence aiming to keep the Dundee fans safe from the thousands of ‘friendly’ Vllaznia fans who turned out to welcome their visitors to the Loro Boriçi Stadium.
Shkoder was full of rusting pylons and crumbling buildings although most of them had a satellite dish on them and the place had a real depressing feel to it. As you walked along the road you had to avoid people on donkeys, horses and carts and people walking their cows which gave it a backward, almost medieval feel to it – a real trip back in time.
The people of Shkoder however love their football and love their team KS Vllaznia who play in vertical blue and red stripes modeled on Barcelona. More than 11,000 turned up to watch the visit of The Dee and to pay their respect to their former president Myftar Cela who had been recently assassinated in Kosovo and there was a minute’s silence before the kick off.
Once the match started, Dundee, in their new European strip of dark blue shirts and sky blue shorts, quickly took control of the game with Steve Lovell and Nacho Novo missing several good chances. However, the Dark Blues had Julian Speroni to thank for keeping the scores level on forty minutes when he somehow kept out a Mansaku header that looked to have goal written all over it but tipped it over the bar. It was a sensational save!
A minute later Dundee took a well deserved lead. A fantastic through ball from Georgi Nemsadze released Stevie Lovell and he slotted past goalkeeper Armir Grimaj to put Dundee 1-0 up and score Dundee’s first UEFA Cup goal since Jocky Scott netted against RWD Molenbeek at Dens in 1974.
The Dundee fans went wild, despite the fact their seats, located to the rear of the dilapidated stadium, were perilously close to a largely unguarded sixty foot drop that offered a quick way to exit the ground and meet your maker.
At half-time the gun-totting Albanian police stunned everyone in the travelling party by allowing the Dundee fans to leave the stadium and sneak in a couple of cheeky pints at the pub opposite the ground.
Almost as soon as they returned, Dundee extended their lead when Gavin Rae latched onto a loose ball and fed Garry Brady to cross low for Nacho Novo to knock it into the net. Dundee played out the remainder of the game very comfortably and the Vllaznia fans were streaming out of the ground in their hundreds well before the final whistle blew.
After the first leg, allegations of Vllaznia throwing the game began to surface after bookmakers had stopped taking money amid unusual betting patterns. There were suggestions that the Albanian side had been approached by syndicates but anyone that was in Shkoder that night will know it was a hard earned victory in a competitive match.
It was a fantastic, professional performance from Dundee and the 2-0 victory which gave The Dee their first European victory since beating AC Milan 2-0 at Dens in 1971 but on that occasion the result wasn’t enough to progress.
No Scottish side had ever won in Albania before including Celtic’s Lisbon Lions and Alex Ferguson’s triumphant Aberdeen Cup Winners’ Cup side so Dundee coming back from the Balkans with a 2-0 win was terrific with huge credit going to Speroni.
The second leg took place a fortnight later on August 28th and 8,254 Dees packed into Dens to see if they could win their first European tie since knocking Cologne out of the inaugural UEFA Cup in 1971.
There was one change from the first leg in Albania with Beto Carranza coming in for Garry Brady and within two minutes a brilliant defence-splitting pass by the little Argentinean allowed Nacho Novo to fire home and give Dundee a 3-0 aggregate lead.
Unfortunately for Carranza he then had to be taken off injured but just before half time his replacement, Juan Sara, added a second the effectively kill the tie.
After the break Gavin Rae scored one of the best goals ever seen at Dens Park when he thundered a 25-yarder in off the bar. At the Bob Shankly end a cross from Giorgi Nemsadze was headed out of the Vllaznia box by an Armir Grimaj and with a swipe of his right boot Rae ferociously volleyed the ball home via the underside of the bar to put Dundee 3-0 up on the night.
Towards the end, Novo got his second and Dundee’s fourth with a clever shot with the outside of his boot to complete the 6-0 aggregate rout and a memorable two legged affair was complete. For Julián it was two clean sheets on his European debut and despite fears about travelling to the war torn region, concerns it was a tough draw and unsubstantiated accusations of corruption, it was a tie that lives long in the memory.
In the first round, Dundee drew Intertoto Cup winners Perugia from Serie A but a 2-1 home defeat in the first leg gave The Dee a mountain to climb in Umbria. Try as they might, Dundee couldn’t make the break through in Perugia and they had to rely on a world class save from Speroni to keep them in the game. With the second leg still goal less, Speroni superbly tipped an angular drive over the bar but it would eventually count for nothing as the Italians got their goal and went through 3-1 on aggregate.
By now Speroni was a cult hero at Dens and the fans would repeatedly chant his name as he had become popular for his charisma, agility, shot stopping and sometimes sheer audacity for trying to beat outfield players with his skills.
Just a few weeks after the Perugia game however, Dundee went into administration with debts of £23 million and while twenty-five players and staff were released including Fabrizio Ravanelli and all of Julián’s fellow Argentineans, he was one of the lucky ones who kept his job.
For the rest of the season it was an uphill battle with a threadbare squad to avoid the relegation which would surely have killed the Club. Speroni, again an ever present, was one of the star performers as they pulled away from the bottom towards the end of the season and they eventually finished a very credible seventh – top of the bottom six.
It was obvious at the end of the season however that the best players would have to be sold to balance the books and Speroni was one of those. Several English clubs made an enquiry but the first firm offer of £750,000 (of which Speroni’s contract entitled him to a third) came from Crystal Palace and he was off to Selhurt Park with Dundee banking a much needed half a million from his sale.
By his eleventh year at Palace – a superb record considering the modern movement of players - Speroni had won The Eagle’s Player of the Year three seasons in a row from 2008 to 2010 and they awarded him with a testimonial. With all monies going to charity Speroni wanted only one club in opposition and Dundee were only too happy to oblige.
Almost 2,000 Dees travelled to South London for a memorable end of the season occasion and watched Palace defeat Dundee 4-3 with a number of Julián’s former Dark Blues team mates Ketsbaia, Caballero, Nemsadze, Carranza and Sara turning out for The Dee. Stoke City’s Charlie Adam also guested and scored for his boyhood team but the highlight was when Speroni delighted the away support and swapped sides for the last half hour to wear a Dundee shirt for one last time
For Dundee Speroni made 113 appearances, keeping twenty-seven clean sheets and was inducted into the Club’s Hall of Fame in 2015 with an International Award. Although the support accepted the necessity to sell him to raise funds, it was still a huge blow to lose such a popular and gifted player and the turn out from the Dundee support at his testimonial showed the high regard Speroni is still held in at Dens.
January 6th, 2002
Dundee 1 - 1 Falkirk
Scottish Cup (3rd Round)
|Competition||NPS||G2G||Win %||Draw %||Loss %|
|Recent Starting Appearances (First Team Competitive matches)|
|May 12th, 2004||12/05/04||League||Premier League||vs. Livingston (H)||2 - 0|
|May 8th, 2004||08/05/04||League||Premier League||vs. Kilmarnock (H)||2 - 0|
|May 1st, 2004||01/05/04||League||Premier League||vs. Hibernian (A)||0 - 1|
|Apr 24th, 2004||24/04/04||League||Premier League||vs. Partick (A)||1 - 0|
|Apr 17th, 2004||17/04/04||League||Premier League||vs. Hibernian (H)||2 - 2|
|Recent Goals Scored (First Team Competitive matches)|
|List of First Team Competitive matches played (click to expand)|
|List of First Team Competitive goals scored|
|= Starting Appearances (Sub Appearances) | = Goals | NPS = Squad Appearances (as Non-Playing Sub) | GtGR = Goals to Games Ratio|
|Yel = Yellow Cards/Cautions | Red = Red Cards/Dismissals | W/D/L - Games won, drawn or lost as percentage of games played in|
Julian was born on this date in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Dundee 1 - 1 Falkirk
Scottish Cup (3rd Round)
Dundee 1 - 0 Hibernian
League (Premier League)
Dundee Utd 1 - 1 Dundee
League (Premier League)
Motherwell 1 - 2 Dundee
League (Premier League)
Dundee 0 - 1 Dunfermline
League (Premier League)
Dundee 2 - 0 Livingston
League (Premier League)