Dougan, (Alexander) Derek (1938–2007), footballer and author, was born 20 January 1938 at 41 Susan Street in the Newtownards Road district of east Belfast, the eldest of six children (three boys and three girls) of John 'Jackie' Dougan, a boilermaker at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, and his wife Josephine 'Josie' (née Kitchen). Educated at Mersey Street primary school and Belfast Technical High School, on leaving school he worked in the Tri-ang toy factory for over a year. He then became an apprentice electrician at Harland and Wolff (1955–7) but found the daily toil mundane and repetitive, and football became his escape. He played with Cregagh Boys (1951–4) and won schoolboy and amateur caps for Northern Ireland.
Distillery to Leicester, 1954–67 In 1954 he joined Irish League club Distillery (then based in west Belfast). He made 76 league appearances for Distillery, scoring 17 goals, and in May 1956 helped them to beat Glentoran 1–0 to win the Irish Cup.
Attracting the attention of several cross-channel clubs, in August 1957 he signed professional terms with first-division Portsmouth, making his debut on 19 October 1957 in a 3–0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford. Although Dougan's preferred position was centre-half, his manager saw him as a goal scorer, and played him mostly at centre-forward. In two years with Portsmouth he made 33 league appearances and scored nine goals, but found it difficult to settle at the club, which struggled to avoid relegation. He railed against authority, criticised the training regime and team tactics, and gained the reputation of a rebel. Dougan chafed against the conformist culture of English professional football in which players were expected to defer to managers and directors, and his readiness to speak his mind set him apart.
Transferred to Blackburn Rovers in March 1959, he made 59 appearances and scored 26 league goals in two years, but never really took to Blackburn, finding it a dour club in a dour town, and asked for a transfer on the eve of the 1960 FA Cup final against Wolves. Although injured, he declared himself fit and limped through a 3–0 defeat, alienating many at the club.
Moving to Aston Villa in August 1961, he sustained a broken arm in a serious car accident in September 1961, but still made 59 league appearances and scored 19 goals in his two years there. On joining the club he shaved his head to stand out and began to earn the reputation of a man about town. His flamboyance and battling performances made him popular with supporters, but Villa manager Joe Mercer considered him unreliable and left him out of the team for the 1963 League Cup final.
Seeing no future at Villa, Dougan moved to third-division Peterborough United in summer 1963. Although dropping two divisions, Dougan liked the club's ambitious and brash image, and the financial terms offered were attractive to a newly married man. (In July 1963 he married Jutta Fichtl, originally from Munich; they had two sons, Alexander and Nicholas.) In two years he scored 19 goals in 77 league games, but soon discovered that the national media paid little attention to the lower leagues and craved a return to the top flight.
In May 1965 he signed for first-division Leicester City for £25,000. At Leicester he matured as a player, scoring goals regularly and becoming a great crowd favourite. Again he stayed for just two seasons, playing 68 times and scoring an impressive 35 league goals, but believed he was poorly rewarded for his efforts.
Wolverhampton, 1967–75 In March 1967 Dougan joined Wolverhampton Wanderers, then in the second division, for a fee of £50,000. By moving clubs every couple of years he had earned the reputation of a roving mercenary, but he remained at Wolves for eight years and became closely identified with the club. He marked his home debut on 25 March 1967 with a hat trick against Hull City, and scored another six to help Wolves gain promotion. He was Wolves' leading scorer in the 1967/8, 1968/9 and 1971/2 seasons, making 258 league appearances and scoring 95 league goals (1967–75) (in total he made 323 senior appearances and scored 123 goals for Wolves). While at Wolves he surpassed the record of Peter Doherty (qv) to become the top-scoring Irishman in English league football. His career totals of 222 league goals in 546 games and 280 goals in 648 games in all competitions are records for an Irish player in England.
Dougan was the outstanding personality in a talented Wolves team that played exciting football, but lacked the consistency to challenge for league titles. In his time, their best finish was fourth in 1970/71, qualifying them for the newly created UEFA Cup in which they eliminated Juventus and Ferencváros before losing the two-legged final 3–2 to Tottenham Hotspur in May 1972. Dougan was at his best during this European campaign, unsettling defenders with his direct physical style, and was the tournament's top scorer in 1971/2 with nine goals. (His tally of 12 goals in European competitions is a record for Wolves and for a Northern Ireland player). Despite his goal-scoring feats, success (other than the inaugural Texaco Cup (1971)) eluded him until, at the age of 36, he won the only major trophy in his eighteen-year-long career in England when Wolves beat Manchester City 2–1 at Wembley to win the League Cup in March 1974. He played his last league game for Wolves on 26 April 1975.
During these years 'The Doog ' (as he was commonly known), with his distinctive loping stride and swashbuckling style, was idolised by Wolves supporters. He revelled in their adulation, playing to the crowd and celebrating his goals exuberantly. Standing 6ft 2 in (1.88 m) tall and rangily built, he was a superb target man, bravely winning the ball in the air and creating numerous chances with his clever flicks and lay-offs. He was also an accomplished player on the ground, with good ball control, blistering pace and a lethal left foot. As a target man he took much punishment, but could also dish it out and committed some nasty fouls himself. He collected his share of bookings and dismissals, many for showing dissent to officials, and served a two-month ban from October 1969 after being sent off twice in three weeks.
Like all strong personalities, Dougan divided opinion: some found him intelligent, persuasive and charming, others thought him arrogant, argumentative and rude. Such an opinionated individualist did not always fit easily into the team. Once during a pre-match kick-about he was knocked unconscious by the ball; far from being concerned, most of his teammates stood around laughing. The Wolves manager, Bill McGarry, a strict disciplinarian, regarded him as a publicity-seeker and troublemaker and the two men heartily disliked each other.
International career, 1958–73 After promising performances for Portsmouth and the Northern Ireland B team (he scored three in a 6–0 victory against Romania B on 23 October 1957), Dougan was included in the Northern Ireland squad for the 1958 World Cup tournament in Sweden. On 8 June 1958 he made his full international debut in the opening game against Czechoslovakia, which Northern Ireland won 1–0. Aged only 20, he was somewhat out of his depth and made no further appearances in the tournament, in which Northern Ireland reached the quarter-finals. He played intermittently for his country until 2 October 1965, when he scored against Scotland in a 3–2 win. From then until his last game against Cyprus on 14 February 1973 he was a regular international, winning 43 caps and scoring eight goals. He was captain (1969–73) and led the team that beat England 1–0 on 23 May 1972 (their first win at Wembley in fifteen years). However, these were generally lean years for a team that lacked strength in depth and failed to qualify for any major tournaments during the 1960s and '70s.
The poor showing of Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the hope that football could heal some of the island's divisions, led Dougan to propose uniting the two international teams. With John Giles and Louis Kilcoyne, he helped organise a team drawn from north and south to play Brazil in Dublin on 3 July 1973. Billed as a Shamrock Rovers XI, they performed well, losing 4–3 to the world champions in an exciting match (Dougan scored the Irish team's second goal). The game helped promote the notion of an all-Ireland team, but discussions between the IFA and the FAI came to nothing. From the time he broached the matter in February 1973, Dougan never again played for Northern Ireland and was convinced that Harry Cavan (qv), the influential president of the IFA, had vetoed his selection for promoting an all-Ireland team.
Public figure By the 1970s Dougan had become a well-known public figure. He led a colourful social life and was voted 'best dressed man' by Tailor and Cutter magazine in 1972. Confident and articulate, he enjoyed giving interviews, and his outspoken views were a magnet to journalists. He embarked on a media career, hosting a sports programme for Radio Birmingham, writing a column for the TV Times, and appearing on the ITV World Cup panels in 1970 and 1974. Featuring provocative figures such as Dougan, Malcolm Allison and Brian Clough, these panels helped transform televised football coverage and make post-match analysis and arguments a central part of the experience. Such exposure made him a national figure and on 16 January 1974 he was a guest on ITV's This is your life introduced by Eamonn Andrews (qv).
Dougan wrote several books (mostly dictated to ghost writers), which included the autobiographical works Attack (1969), The sash he never wore (1972) and Doog (1980). Laced with literary allusions and persistent moralising, they differ markedly from the usual sporting memoirs. His novel, The footballer (1974), about a charismatic player who defies his unimaginative manager to become a star striker, was bestseller of the week in the Irish Times (10 August 1974). In his memoirs and works such as On the spot (1974) and How not to run football (1981), Dougan acutely criticised the ills of English football. In a period of rampant hooliganism and falling attendances, he argued that football needed innovative thinking and substantial investment but had little hope that this would come from club directors or FA administrators, whom he dismissed as self-seeking amateurs, riding on the backs of under-valued and underpaid players. He advocated the building of modern all-seater stadiums that could be used as multi-sport leisure facilities and become focal points for local communities. Arguing (with some prescience) that by showing only edited highlights football had yet to harness the power of television, he recommended reducing the first division to twenty teams and staggering fixtures so that attractive games could be televised live. He predicted that this would multiply the money clubs earned from television rights, advertising and sponsorship, which could then be used to improve facilities and players' pay.
Dougan criticised the defensive and sterile nature of much professional football and advocated rule changes to encourage attacking play, such as abolishing the offside rule. Sceptical of the value of FA coaching badges, he claimed that players were often over-coached, destroying their personality and individualism, and condemned the sport's failure to accommodate the wayward genius of his Northern Ireland teammate George Best (qv). The cover of Dougan's How not to run football featured a picture of a crucified Best, and in December 2005 he was one of the pallbearers at his funeral in Belfast.
In 1967 Dougan joined the committee of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) and later became chairman (1970–78). In March 1974 he helped inaugurate the annual PFA awards for outstanding players. Determined to improve footballers' contractual position, he proved a tenacious negotiator in achieving abolition of the antiquated system whereby clubs could hold a player's registration and prevent him from moving. A significant measure of freedom of contract was finally conceded in April 1978, allowing a player to negotiate his own terms on completing his contract, significantly improving his career options and earning capacity. Throughout his life Dougan worked hard to improve the status of professional footballers, and in 2005 helped set up Xpro, an organisation dedicated to the welfare of former players.
Later career, 1975–2007 On leaving Wolves, Dougan became chief executive and player-manager at Kettering Town of the Southern Premier League. In January 1976 he introduced shirt sponsorship, but was forced to cancel it by the FA. This left the club in financial difficulty and he resigned on 23 August 1977. After working as a football commentator with Yorkshire Television, Dougan became involved in efforts to rescue Wolves, which was £2.5 million in debt and in danger of going into receivership. A consortium led by Dougan managed to avert disaster only minutes ahead of the receiver's deadline on 30 July 1982. He took over as chairman and chief executive and promised to rejuvenate Wolves, but the required finance was not made available and the club suffered successive relegations in 1984–6 to end up in the fourth division for the first time in its history. Drinking heavily, Dougan fell out with many people at the club and was involved in several aggressive confrontations. His reputation as a Wolves legend was tarnished and he was excluded from the Wolves ex-players' association. In January 1985 he was forced to resign, and around this time his marriage broke up because of his repeated infidelities.
Afterwards, his involvement with football was peripheral. He worked in PR and marketing, and continued to raise money for charities such as the Mental Health Research Fund. Always looking out for a new cause, he began fund-raising for the 'Duncan Edwards Sports Medical Centre', a modern facility for treating sports injuries to be built at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley (Edwards's birthplace), but the venture foundered, with most of the £90,000 raised absorbed by expenses.
For much of the 1990s, Dougan lived in Belfast. He had a major heart attack in January 1997, and afterwards was troubled by serious cardiac problems. In May 1997 he stood as an independent candidate in Belfast East in the Westminster election, but won only 541 votes. It seems he stood at least partly to gain publicity for his new book, The sash he never wore … twenty-five years on (1997), in which Dougan distanced himself from the traditional unionism of his protestant background. He had many catholic friends and married a catholic, and believed that it made no sense for a small country like Ireland to be divided. With a peace process in place, he hoped that integrated education and sport could help bring people together. Unionists tended to regard his views as naïve at best and treacherous at worst, and his image on murals in east Belfast was occasionally defaced. He later joined the United Kingdom Independence Party, canvassing for them in the West Midlands in the 2005 general election, and in June 2006 appeared on BBC TV's Question time as a UKIP representative.
Dougan died from a heart attack on 24 June 2007 at his home in Stockwell End, Tettenhall, Wolverhampton. The funeral service in the Collegiate Church of St Peter in Wolverhampton on 5 July 2007 was attended by former teammates and friends such as Denis Law, John Giles, Pat Jennings and Martin O'Neill, and thousands of fans. He was cremated at Bushbury Crematorium, Wolverhampton.
Remembered as one of football's great characters and one of Wolves' greatest players, Dougan was inducted into the club's hall of fame in November 2010. Although a more multi-faceted figure than most footballers, he still struggled to find a niche after he stopped playing. Experiences such as his chairmanship of Wolves were bruising and dispiriting, and his forays into fund-raising and politics contributed to the image of a man whose ambition often outstripped his abilities. Though he took great pride in his writing, media appearances, charity work and PFA negotiations, he admitted at the end of his playing days that 'of all the kicks I have had out of life, kicking a ball is the greatest' (Ir. Times, 16 April 1975).