It was perhaps serendipity that brought Bob Wilson to Dundas United Soccer Club.
The former president of the club inducted into Hamilton’s Soccer Hall of Fame last weekend for two decades of amateur men’s soccer dominance in Hamilton recently reminisced about the day he got lost on Highway 99 and ended up in the Valley Town in 1977.
“Watch your mouth,” a woman said when he asked if this was Hamilton.
Wilson, who had moved to Ontario with his wife and two children from Paisley, Scotland, ended up buying a home in Dundas. His son joined a Dundas United junior team, and Wilson ended up going to a senior team game and annual general meeting – where he became president of the then 10-year-old club. He served in that role for eight years in the late 70s and 1984 thorough 1988.
Wilson came to the club just as the premiere amateur squad was really hitting its stride. John McDonald came on as head coach in 1979 and began recruiting heavily. He attended McMaster University games and brought those players to Dundas United.
They joined European immigrants who brought their skills and experience to Canada.
Dundas United won the prestigious Spectator Cup in 1979, 1980, 1986 and 1989. They won the strong Inter City League five straight years from 1981 to 1985 and the league playoffs in 1982 and 1984. Dundas United won two provincial titles and appeared in the Ontario final four times in the 1980s.
They dominated their league and the province throughout the 1980s. But most prestigious was that 1984 season when, in addition to winning the league and playoff title, Dundas United won the Ontario Cup provincial championship.
That was followed by a trip to Montreal for the Central Canada final. A win there qualified the Dundas team for the Canadian Amateur Championships in Victoria, B.C., where they advanced all the way to the Challenge Trophy final game and lost 1-0 to Victoria West Soccer Club.
Dundas United won the Ontario Cup provincial championship again in 1997. In the early 2000s, the dominating force of Ontario soccer disbanded. Dundas United operates today in an old-timers league.
“It’s a pity,” Wilson said, as he recalled the huge impact the town and club had on each other through the late 70s and 80s. “People I met 30 years ago are still my friends. The town got behind us.”
Bill Leckie was one of the founding members of the club as a player in 1967 and later served in a variety of roles with Dundas United.
“It was a really tight-knit community,” Leckie said. “It got really expensive and you needed a sponsor. We did it with memberships and fundraising.”
John Gibson, founder of Hamilton’s Soccer Hall of Fame and long-time member of Dundas United, said the club was unique in that all players paid to play. And during its heyday, the club grew to include a bantam team, Under-14, Under-18, Under-21 and Over-35 in addition to the premiere 18 to 32 senior team.
“We built it up into quite something,” Gibson said. “We had a great run.”
He credited Wilson for his fundraising abilities to help the club attain success in the 80s and 90s.
The club hosted dances, comedy nights, music performances and an annual Robbie Burns Supper. Community involvement was a necessary thing for the team to survive – but also served Dundas.
Wilson recalled the provincial soccer association would only pay the fare to Vancouver for the 1984 national championship for 13 players. They needed to get coaches and a few more players there themselves, and pay other expenses.
“We raised $32,000 in 10 days,” he said.
Wilson, Gibson and Leckie – like the many others involved with Dundas United, particularly between the 1980 to 2000 era inducted in the hall of fame – are clearly proud of what they and the club accomplished.
“It was my life,” Wilson said. He moved on from Dundas United at the end of the 80s to become president of Hamilton and District Soccer Association. Like so many others – players who earned college scholarships or played internationally for Canada, or administrators who moved on to professional ranks and other challenges – Dundas United prepared Wilson for even more success.