At the time Eamonn was signed by Jim McLean, he was the most expensive
player ever bought by United costing a reputed £165,000. Still
only 21 when he joined United, Eamonn had begun his career with Hearts
joining the Edinburgh side at the age of eighteen from Links Boys Club.
At Hearts he had made 71 appearances and scored 19 times before he moved
from Tynecastle to join Chelsea, making his debut against Birmingham
in a 2-1 win. His spell at Stamford Bridge was not a happy time. Signed
by Danny Blanchflower, Eamonn scored his first and only competitive
goal for The Blues at Bolton in just his third game, but in a poor season
for the London club which saw them record only five wins, they finished
bottom and were relegated. After a bad start to the next season, the
manager was replaced by Geoff Hurst and Bobby Gould. With only one game
under the new management team, bringing his total appearances to a mere
25, Eamonn was on the transfer list. Within days Jim McLean had snapped
him up for what even then was considered a bargain price.
He joined a Dundee United side which included many players like Paul
Sturrock, Graeme Payne and David Narey who had come up through the youth
development scheme, plus a sprinkling of good experienced lads like
Willie Pettigrew, Paul Hegarty and George Fleming. Some would say he
was the final ingredient in a team with the right blend of youth and
experience, flare, guts and determination, all of which added up to
a recipe for success. Eamonn made his debut in the 0-0 quarter-final
against Raith Rovers at Tannadice on 31st October 1979. Three days later
he scored his first United goal in a 3-0 win against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
For the remainder of 1979-80 he missed only one game and scored three
more times in the League making a tally of four for the season. His
greatest achievement in 1979-80 was being part of the team that brought
the League Cup to Tannadice, the Club’s first ever national silverware.
Season 1980-81 saw Eamonn well established in the United midfield and he missed only two matches in a 36 game League campaign. He netted eight goals including a memorable double in United’s 4-1 win against Rangers at Ibrox. Obviously the team blend was still working well as United carried off the League Cup for a second year in succession, but this time the trophy was won at the expense of local rivals Dundee on their own ground. Eamonn played in all eleven games in the League Cup run netting four times. This was the first time United ever reached two Cup finals in the same season. Again Eamonn played in every match, scoring his only goal in the tournament in a hard fought but well earned 3-2 victory over Celtic in the semi-final replay. This season was also the first for Eamonn in Europe. He played in three of the four UEFA Cup ties with his European debut against Slask Wroclaw in the away leg.
A third League Cup final in a row followed in the next season but United were not to achieve the hat-trick of wins after losing 2-1 to Rangers. The Edinburgh-born midfielder again did not miss a game in the competition and scored four times. This included his first and only hat-trick for United against Ayr in a 4-3 win at Somerset Park on 8th August 1981. In the Scottish Cup on the way to a quarter-final exit to St Mirren at Paisley, Eamonn played in all five games. In Europe the name of Dundee United was to send shock waves through the continent as the Club put on arguably their best ever display on foreign soil, beating AS Monaco 5-2 with the help of two Bannon penalties. United’s European form in 1981-82 was outstanding, and after losing 2-0 away, the 5-0 win against Borussia Munchengladbach again shocked the football world. Eamonn scored the fifth that night, a goal which has often been described as the best ever seen at Tannadice. When asked about it during an interview several years back Eamonn said, “Sure it was a fine goal but it didn’t mean much as the game was effectively over. I rate my duffed penalty when I followed up to score in the League championship decider at Dens as more satisfying!” And so it may be, but to those present and those who saw the goal on television then and since it was extra special. It still gives many an Arab a tingle of pleasure. United faced a quarter final exit after a 3-2 aggregate defeat by Radniki Nis and Eamonn played in all eight of the UEFA Cup ties. To complete a season in which he was an ever-present, he played in all League matches including three as a sub and he scored twelve times, seven from the spot.
1982-83 will of course live long in the memory of those Arabs who were fortunate enough to witness the Club winning the Championship. Eamonn Bannon has no doubt about this being the highlight of his Tannadice career. He said when asked the question “It has to be winning the League. Only when you look back do you really appreciate the quality of the side we had. Perhaps the biggest asset we had was the camaraderie that existed within the side. We were all mates, something I had never experienced anywhere else that I have played and that perhaps was one of the secrets of success. Though above all else we were supremely fit.”
During the Championship winning season Eamonn missed only five games and he found the net ten times, four of which were penalties and two were scored against Motherwell in the 4-0 win at Tannadice in the penultimate game of the season. He had also been in the side five times and netted three in a League Cup run which ended in defeat to Celtic in a two-leg semi-final. The UEFA Cup run had also been a disappointment when United lost narrowly to Bohemians of Prague over two legs. It may have been a blessing in disguise as the defeat appeared to be the platform which culminated in the Championship. In any event Eamonn played in six UEFA ties but failed to find the net.
As well as being the Championship winning season, 1982-83 also saw
Eamonn making a belated run at international success. He had made appearances
at Under-21 level whilst at Hearts and Chelsea, and in his first season
with United. He had also made a full international debut on 12th December
1979, but it was May 1983 before he began to get selected more often.
Making a total of eleven appearances until his last game for Scotland
against West Germany on 8th August 1986, Eamonn managed only one goal
at this level. That was against East Germany in a European Championship
qualifier on 16th November 1983.
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