It’s now more than half a century since Dundee FC were at their height, winning the title and reaching the semi-finals of the European Cup. In fact, of the 120-plus years of the club’s history, the most recent have been the most painful, Dundee having to sell their stadium then go into administration. But these troubled times also gave rise to the Dundee FC Supporters’ Society, majority shareholders from 2011 to 2013-14 and, in turn, to a return to the Premiership.
For most of its first century, the club was a top-flight proposition. In fact, the reason for the merger of East End and Our Boys in 1893 was to gain league status for the new club, Dundee FC.
Moving from the harbourfront ground of Carolina Port to Dens Park near Clepington Park in 1899, Dundee FC established themselves as a force to reckoned with early on, strong home form helping them achieve runners-up spots in the First Division three times and what would their only Scottish Cup so far, in 1910. Two late goals against Clyde levelled the score at 2-2 in the final, won on a second replay thanks to another vital strike from John Hunter, a title-winner with Liverpool in 1901.
After another brief flourish in the 1920s, and a city rivalry established with near neighbours Dundee United, the Dark Blues succumbed to a first-ever relegation in 1938 but bounced back right after the war. Record signing Billy Steel led Dundee to consecutive League Cup wins in the early 1950s but it was the arrival of a young forward, Alan Gilzean, then Bob Shankly, brother of Bill, as manager, that brought Scotland’s top silverware to Dens Park: the league crown.
Also vital to this one and only championship for the Dees was veteran striker Gordon Smith, signed at 37 after winning the title with Hibs and Hearts, and later Arsenal centre-half Ian Ure.
Buoyed by a 5-1 win at champions Rangers, Dundee had romped ahead early in the 1961-62 campaign only to be pegged back and win the league on the last day.
Perhaps even more remarkable was the European Cup run that followed, the 8-1 win over German champions 1FC Köln, the 4-1 win over a strong Sporting Lisbon and the 4-1 win over Paul van Himst’s Anderlecht in Brussels. Eventual winners Milan may have then put Dundee to the sword, 5-1 in the San Siro semi-final, but Alan Gilzean’s nine campaign goals soon saw him signed to Spurs.
Shankly went to replace Jock Stein at Hibs and Dundee didn’t finish top four again. In the cup tournaments, a relatively easy passage, including a bye, set up a tight semi-final with Don Revie’s Leeds of the Inter-City Fairs’ Cup, and ex-Celtic’s Tommy Gemmell captained Dundee to a 1-0 win over his old club in the League Cup final of 1973.
The new century and the new era started with the marquee signing of Argentine World Cup star Claudio Caniggia, the Bonetti brothers, both trophy winners with Juventus, and Georgian internationals Temuri Ketsbaia and Georgi Nemsadze. Dundee failed to improve on their fifth-place finish in 1999 and soon fell into a terrible spiral of debt.
Selling Dens Park, the Dark Blues struggled on, but by 2005 the game was up. Nemsadze and Paraguayan striker Fabián Caballero were the last foreign stars to leave after the club entered administration.
Pulling Dundee out of the mire were a business trust and the supporters’ society. A second plunge into administration in 2010 and deduction of 25 league points in the second-flight First Division nearly signalled the end of the Dark Blues – but, with communal fan action, heroics on the pitch and the goals of Sean Higgins, Dundee not only lived to fight another day but gain promotion the following season.
Current chairman is Texas-based entrepreneur Tim Keyes, who played soccer to a high level in the pre-MLS days.
Negotiations are still on-going for the club to buy back Dens Park.
Home of Dundee FC since 1899, Dens Park was fully renovated exactly a century later. Famously set 300 metres from city rivals Dundee United, Dens Park is a neat, intimate ground of 11,500 capacity bookended by two facing ends of the Bobby Cox Stand for home supporters and Bob Shankly for visiting ones.
The ticket office is behind the main North Stand nearest Tannadice Street while only part of the South Stand is currently in use, if required – the adjoining area has been the subject of a possible real-estate sale, a long-running saga rumbling the background while various chairmen and trusts have been trying to sort out the club’s finances.
Dens Park/Dens Road has its own stop on the No.1A (every 15-30min Mon-Sat, every 30-60min Sun and No.24 bus lines (every 30min Mon-Sat till around 6pm, not Sun) that set off from Courthouse Square and pass central Albert Square, stand A2 (journey time 10-12min). The No.208 runs from Commercial Street (Forum Centre 2) hourly Mon-Sat until 2pm.
The walk from Wellgate Shopping Centre in town, up steep Hilltown then veering right up Mains Road to the stadium should take 15-20min.
For most fixtures, the ticket office behind the North Stand opens at 10am on match days. For the visits of Celtic and Dundee United, the office usually also opens the week before, Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-3pm, Sun noon-4pm.
Online sales require registration.
Average prices are £22 for adults, £15 over-65s, £12 under-16s, £24 for one adult and an under-12 in the family enclosure in the Bobby Cox Stand. For Celtic and Dundee United, prices rise to £25, £18 reduced and £30 for the adult/child deal.
Prices fall for cup games against lower-league opposition. Match-day admission is usually possible except in the case of Celtic and Dundee United.
The club shop (Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, match day Sat 10am-kick-off, non-match Sat 10am-3pm) sells all kinds of dark-blue paraphernalia, from branded cat-collar tags to (ahem) bawbag underwear. Note also the uplifting tale of Dundee’s 2010-11 survival, told in the book ‘It’s All About The Memories’ by Jacqui Robertson and Kenny Ross.
Walking distance from Dens Park are dozens of pubs, some neutral, some used by followers of nearby Dundee United but most fly the dark blue of Dundee FC. Pride of place goes to the High Corner at 53 Kinghorne Road, near the junction with Strathmartine Road, home of several supporters’ clubs down the years and displaying plenty of DFC history. At the same junction, the Bowbridge Bar (2 Main Street) and Halley’s (22 Strathmartine Road) are similarly partisan.
Just over 5min walk away on Alexander Street, the corner Ellenbank Bar at No.128 is popular pre-match and used as a setting-off point for buses to away games. Nearer the ground on Mains Road, the Maltman (Nos.36-38) is another busy local.