THE SUMMER of 1987 saw Brighton & Hove Albion back in the old Third Division for the first time in 10 years.
It was the start of manager Barry Lloyd’s first full season in charge and he had gone back to his old club Chelsea to recruit his no.2, head coach Martin Hinshelwood, and a new captain for the Seagulls in rugged centre half Doug Rougvie, for a fee of £73,000.
Many years later, Gus Poyet brought in another Scottish captain in Gordon Greer. Rougvie certainly didn’t have Greer’s ability on the ball but he had been a European Cup Winners’ Cup winner with Aberdeen and he wasn’t afraid to put himself about.
Rougvie had a regular Captain’s Column in the 1987-88 season’s matchday programme, and for the opening game against York City, he wrote: “I’m delighted to be rewarded with the captaincy. It’s a great honour for me and my family.
“With five new players at the club, a new coach in Martin Hinshelwood and Barry Lloyd beginning his first full season in charge, I’m sure I won’t be the only person feeling a bit nervous in the dressing room.”
Born in Ballingry, Fife, on 24 May 1956, Rougvie signed schoolboy forms for Dunfermline Athletic at the age of 12 and his favourite player was another uncompromising centre half, Roy Barry, who after playing for Dunfermline headed south and played for Coventry City when they were regulars amongst the elite.
Rougvie joined Aberdeen in 1972 and had a loan spell at junior club Rosemount before getting a first team chance under future Scotland manager Ally McLeod in the 1975-76 season. He was largely overlooked by McLeod’s successor, Billy McNeill, but when Alex Ferguson arrived his fortunes changed.
It was a leg break for regular centre half Willie Garner that gave him his opportunity to step in and he eventually made 279 appearances for the Dons over eight years. Ferguson sparked a huge revival in Aberdeen’s fortunes and Rougvie was involved as they won two Scottish league titles, three Scottish Cups, and the European Super Cup. The highlight, though, was undoubtedly being part of the side that beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the final of the 1983 European Cup Winners’ Cup in Gothenburg.
That side was captained by Willie Miller and included Alex McLeish at centre back, Gordon Strachan in midfield and future Albion manager Mark McGhee up front.
On 13 December that year, Jock Stein selected him at left back for his one and only Scotland cap, featuring in a 2-0 defeat against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast, in what was the last game of the old British Championship.
afcheritage.org recalls: “Big Doug had no international pedigree to speak of at youth or under-21 level, but was picked on the strength of his impressive club performances, particularly in big European competitions.” He was one of five Aberdeen players in that side, the others being goalkeeper Jim Leighton, McLeish, Strachan and Peter Weir, and McGhee came on in the second half as a substitute.
At the start of the 1984-85 season, to coincide with Chelsea’s promotion back to the top division, Rougvie headed to Stamford Bridge. The size of the fee involved varies depending on what source you read. It’s most commonly said to have been £150,000 although Rougvie told Brighton’s matchday programme it was £215,000.
In a highly entertaining interview Rougvie gave to The Scotsman in 2014 about the move south, he told reporter Alan Patullo: “He (Ferguson) called me a mercenary and told me to f**k off, so I f**ked off.”
Rougvie’s three seasons at Chelsea were far from plain-sailing and by popular opinion it would seem his capacity for tough tackling was counterbalanced by a lack of pace that was cruelly exposed.
In the highly irreverent footie banter magazine thedaisycutter.co.uk, writer Noel Draper took an amusing swipe at Rougvie on 9 February 2012.
“Footballers are fickle creatures,” he wrote. “Watch them in one team and they appear to be footballing gods, commanding the game, making outrageous passes and winning every tackle. Watch them play for someone else and they turn into a shadow of their former selves, hiding in full view, hitting passes into the crowd and missing tackles. Doug Rougvie was such a footballer.”
Draper continues: “One rather unkind journalist said, ‘If he were any more limited he could be quoted on the Stock Exchange’.”
The piece maintains: “The Chelsea fans loved him instantly, not for his skills, but for his passion and commitment. He also seemed to love scoring own goals and pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. A reckless challenge here, a sending off there, it seemed that nothing would stop Doug ‘Rambo’ Rougvie.”
He was sent off whilst playing against Wimbledon after 10 minutes for head butting John Fashanu and “scored an own goal at Wembley that resulted in an easy 5-1 victory becoming a heart stopping 5-4 win against Manchester City”.
On another occasion, he was in a Chelsea side on the wrong end of a 6-0 thumping from QPR in the days of their artificial pitch at Loftus Road. The former Albion striker John Byrne was playing up front for QPR alongside Gary Bannister, who scored a hat-trick, and in an interview with bbc.co.uk, Byrne recalled: “We tore them to shreds. Doug Rougvie, who was playing at centre-back for Chelsea, was a fearsome player and he was absolutely furious. By the end, Doug was looking for blood.
“We had the Milk Cup final coming up a couple of weeks later. Banno and me didn’t want to get injured so having destroyed Chelsea, we spent the last part of the match avoiding Doug, who was an angry man.
“We stayed away from him. Banno went to play on one wing and I went and played on the other!”
In Brighton’s Division 3 side in the 1987-88 season, Rougvie was virtually ever-present until March, as the Seagulls hovered close to the promotion places as well as having enjoyed the distraction of playing Arsenal at home in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Rougvie wrote in his programme notes: “The most important thing for us is to win promotion although the FA Cup is a great diversion for the lads and we’ll be doing our utmost to spring a surprise.”
The average Brighton home crowd that season was around 8,000 but for the Arsenal game 26,467 packed into the Goldstone. A terrific volleyed goal from Garry Nelson gave the Albion hope, but Arsenal won through 2-1.
With parallels of 1972, when Pat Saward dropped captain John Napier for the final run-in towards promotion from the same division, after a 1-0 defeat away at Rotherham, Lloyd dropped Rougvie in favour of another former Chelsea defender, Robert Isaac, and the captain’s armband switched to Steve Gatting.
Rougvie returned for what would be his last game in the stripes – a 2-0 home win over Gillingham – but Isaac regained the no.5 shirt for the remaining seven games of the season, including the promotion-clinching 2-1 win against Bristol Rovers in front of 19,800 at the Goldstone.
So, after playing a total of 46 league and cup games, Rougvie’s Albion career was over and at the end of the season he departed for Shrewsbury Town, where he made 21 appearances.
He then went back to West London to play 18 games for Fulham before returning to his first club, Dunfermline, to help their 1989-90 promotion push.
He subsequently became player-manager at Montrose before ending his playing days at Highland League team Huntly. In the late 90s, Rougvie was still pulling on his boots, turning out for Aberdeen amateur league side Kincorth AFC.
That 2014 interview in The Scotsman revealed that Rougvie was back in Aberdeen working for the engineering firm Costain, having gone back to college in his mid-forties to complete studies he had begun before his football career and gain an HNC in electrical engineering.
His only football involvement at that time was watching Aberdeen and he said: “If I was still in football I would be divorced right now. Whether you are part-time or full-time, if you aren’t watching football, you are talking about it, on the phone to players, taking training. It is non-stop. I admire the boys who are in the game but still able to have that happy home life too.”
Pictures from the Albion programme and the Argus plus a Shoot! magazine Q&A when Rougvie was at Chelsea.