Dundee United, Tannadice Park

Next up in my apparent series of very close derby matches is the Dundee Derby, while not quite as close as the Spakenburg Derby. Separated by only 100 yards of Tannadice Street tarmac, the derby is relatively new with the first meeting between the clubs in 1925. Dundee are the older sibling, their formation in 1893 by merger of two clubs meant The Dee could enter the Scottish Football League. Dundee’s success has been sporadic with a league title in 1962 and Scottish Cup in 1910, League Cups have been more plentiful with a couple of wins in the 1950’s and a third in 1974. In recent years though, The Dee have tended to flitter between the Championship and Premiership. United, the younger of the two clubs were formed in 1909 as Dundee Hibernian. Having nearly gone bust in the early 20’s The Arabs changed their name to Dundee United in an attempt to appeal to more punters. United’s glory days in the early 1980’s saw them win League and League Cup titles as well as forays into the latter stages of European tournaments including a UEFA Cup final under Jim McClean. In a similar vein to their rivals, United have spent time in the Championship in the last decade with no silverware since 2010.

Tannadice is a medium sized, all seater, British ground. It’s nestled between houses, allotments and a trading estate. The slog up the hill from the train station to the ground via the Beano and Dandy statues and past the DC Thomson offices was reasonably warm. The ground has a beautifully British feel to it (yes, I know it’s Scottish) with it’s mix and match stands and towering floodlights. Before the match United unveiled a new statue of Jim McClean in honour of their most sussessful manager. In the corner between The Shed and George Fox Stand flies the 1983 Champions Flag, with The Shed for the Derby chocker block with tangerine adorned fans. Away fans are situated in the two tier Jerry Kerr Stand, it was the first cantilevered stand in Scotland opening in 1962. The stand out moments from the warmup was the United fans in The Shed relentlessly mocking Leah Griffiths as he missed the target during the warm up time, after time, after time. As the teams filed out on the pitch from the corner directly opposite where we were sat, both ends of the ground produced tidy wee choreos to greet their team.

As with many of these games, it was bad, not good at all. The Dee had some recognisable faces for my Dad and I in the shape of former Bristol Rovers players Ryan Sweeney and Alex Jakubiak. An injured Charlie Adam missed out but former City player Liam Fontaine replaced Sweeney early on. United were captained by former Celtic centreback Charlie Mulgrew and included Wales international Dylan Levitt in midfield. The game didn’t burst into life until the last ten minutes when Ian Harkes fired into the bottom corner with a driving shot from outside the area. Dundee threw the proverbial kitchen sink at United in the last few minutes and saw one cleared off the line in stoppage time. Were United worth the win? Probably, but as a sceptical it won’t last long in the memory.

Scottish football tends to get a bad reputation, the passion and humour around it are utterly beautiful though. It’s grounds much like Ireland are a throwback in the best possible way. The self deprecating humour, the macaroni pies and sensational array of swearing only add to the bampot nature of the league. The Duopoly nature of the league means that when one of the other clubs achieves something, it means the world. The cup wins, the derby wins and the wins over the big two are greeted with jubilation. Dundee went onto get relegated last year and United have just sacked Jack Ross as manager so those days seem a little far away right now but, that’s why people go. You cannot feel the true elation of the highs without the lows.

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