The history of Dundee United can be easily divided three distinct eras. There were the golden years of the 1980s under manager Jim McLean, when the Arabs, along with Aberdeen, challenged the Celtic-Rangers hegemony to form the New Firm.
Then there were the years pre-McLean, when United lived in the shadow of near neighbours Dundee FC. As for the years post-McLean, two of them under Jim’s younger brother Tommy, the Tangerines have maintained a near constant top-flight presence and twice won the Scottish Cup but can no longer make any headway in Europe.
Derived from Dundee Hibernian in 1923, when the newly named club ditched their green kits for white and black ones, Dundee United have always been based at Tannadice, next door to Dens Park, home of Dundee FC.
Up to 1960, United remained second flight for every season but four. Hiring a number of Scandinavians, most notably Swedish World Cup star Örjan Persson, United made the Fairs’ Cup in 1966. Beating Barcelona in both legs – United have a 100% all-time record over the Catalans in two ties – the Arabs fell to Juventus in the third round.
In 1971, Jim McLean nipped over the road from Dens Park to take the manager’s job at Tannadice. He was 34. Putting faith in youth, McLean brought the likes of centre-back David Narey and forwards Paul Sturrock and Davie Dodds into the first team. With most of the team either locally born or discovered at junior clubs, McLean’s United were a tight, motivated unit.
Given time to develop, by the end of the decade the team could put in a serious challenge to Glasgow’s domination of the domestic game. With the arrival of young defenders Maurice Malpas and Richard Gough, and midfielder Eamonn Bannon, United became a serious proposition at home and abroad.
Rarely lucky in Hampden finals, United won two League Cups at Dens Park in 1979 and 1980. The second, over Dundee, saw the strike partnership of Dodds and Sturrock score three goals without reply. In the subsequent run in the UEFA Cup in 1981, United put five past Monaco, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Winterslag in each round before falling to Radnički Niš.
In 1982-83, consistency told as a small playing squad kept neck-and-neck with Celtic and Aberdeen all season to set up a dramatic finish – against, of all teams, Dundee at Dens Park. United held on for a 2-1 win and a first and only league title. A year later, they took a 2-0 lead to Roma in the second leg of the European Cup semi-final. Hindered by an early yellow card for Malpas, the Tangerines succumbed to a Pruzzo brace and penalty. If Ralph Milne had not skied a golden chance early in the game… Liverpool would have faced Dundee United in the European Cup Final of 1984 and not Roma. As it was, Milne died an alcoholic at 54 in 2015.
McLean’s United enjoyed further memorable European nights, albeit in the UEFA Cup. There was the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United in 1984-85, another win over Barcelona in 1986-87, followed by a surprise 2-0 win at Mönchengladbach to reach the final. Keeping IFK Göteborg to 1-0 in Sweden, United fell to an opening goal from the visitors in the second leg and failed to claw back the aggregate.
United never impressed in Europe again. McLean left in 1993, remained chairman but bowed out after an unsavoury incident with a journalist in 2000.
Since McLean, highlights have included lifelong United fan Craig Brewster scoring the only goal of the 1994 Scottish Cup Final – breaking the club’s Hampden hoodoo – and Craig Conway, signed by Brewster as manager in 2006, bagging two in the 2010 final.
Current club chairman Stephen Thompson took over from his popular father Eddie, in position for nearly two decades until his death 2008. Stephen’s sister Justine Mitchell is also a director and co-owner at Tannadice, one of a new breed of influential women in football.
As Clepington Park, this area was a host of the game in Dundee in the very early days, as long ago as the 1870s. It was Johnstone Wanderers who first added a fence and a stand but competition from nearby Dundee FC at Dens Park affected attendances and Wanderers were forced to merge, then to move. In came Dundee Hibernians in 1909, Wanderers folding soon afterwards. Hibernians became Dundee United and Clepington Tannadice.
With United’s league status, the club bought the ground and began installing terracing and turnstiles. A cantilevered main stand opened in 1962. The need for further modernisation coincided with the club’s years of domestic success and European progress – though Tannadice remained mainly standing-only. Through the early 1990s, stand by stand, the stadium became an all-seater of bright tangerine.
Current capacity is 14,000. Away fans are generally allocated the upper tier of the Jim McLean Fair Play Stand, an extension of the main Terry Kerr Stand. On the opposite touchline is the George Fox Stand, also twin-tiered. For most game, home fans gather round both goals, the West Stand, formerly known as The Shed, and the usually louder East, Eddie Thompson Stand.
Tannadice Park has its own stop on the No.18 bus line (every 10-15min daily) from Courthouse Square and stand A3 on Albert Square (journey time 10-12min). If you’ve just missed one, the Nos.1A and 24 set off from the same central points (Albert Square stand A2) for Dens Park a short walk away.
The walk from Wellgate Shopping Centre in town, up steep Hilltown then veering right up Main Street and Isla to the stadium should take 15-20min.
The ticket office on Tannadice Street opens Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, non-match Sat 9am-1pm, match Sat 9am-kick-off and 30min after the game, match Sun 10am-kick-off.
Online sales require registration.
For most matches, there’s an across-the-board price of £19 for lower tiers and £21 for upper, £10-£12 reductions (under-18s and over-65s). Admission to either tier in the George Fox Stand or the upper in the Eddie Thompson Stand is by advance ticket only – seat-specific tickets for the Eddie Thompson Lower and the Jerry Kerr Upper are sold on match days. Prices rise by £1-£4 for the visits of Celtic and Dundee.
The club shop on Tannadice Street opens Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, non-match Sat 9am-1pm, match weekday 9am-kick-off and 30min after game, match Sat 9am-kick-off and 1hr after game. Among the more unusual branded souvenirs are a latte mug and an ice scraper for the car windscreen – and it’s not too late to order a personalised glazed brick for the display by the main doors at Tannadice.
The area around Tannadice is dotted with bars. Three in particular have a United affinity although most are used by DUFC fans on match days.
Recently up for sale, the Snug Bar on Church Street is a popular choice for those walking up to the ground from town. The corner Four J’s is another option. Small and loud with it, the Troll Inn is right behind the stadium on Arklay Street at No.17A.