We headed north of the border for our football fix for the third week in a row. This time a trip to the home of Dundee United – Tannadice Park.
This is a place that conjures up memories of European football, David Narey, Paul Sturrock and Maurice Malpas are players’ names from the past that come readily to mind.
They reached the final of the 1986/87 UEFA Cup, where they were unlucky to lose 1-2 over two legs against the Swedish side. Göteborg (Gothenburg).
There was also the little matter of the European Cup semi-final loss to Italian giants, Roma in 1983/84. They won 2-0 at Tannadice before cruelly getting beaten 3-0 in the away leg, denying them a spot in the showpiece European final.
The 1987 UEFA Cup was the clubs’ only major European final to date and these days, those big nights of European football seem far away.
Dundee United are currently embroiled in a relegation fight, while their city neighbours are looking to regain their SPL status from the Championship.
That would be an unacceptable turn of events for the Terrors’ fans and they will be doing all they can to cheer their team through this difficult period. Ultimately and very deep down, they are probably cheering Dundee on too. After all, which football fan doesn’t love a good derby game against their closest rivals?
It is during this dogfight that we chose to visit Tannadice Park for the first time and continue our quest to visit the forty-two SPFL grounds of Scotland.
Our day started in its usual sleepy, stumbling around kind of way at 06:00 before heading out of the door to catch the 07:05 bus to Newcastle.
Having arrived around 07:50, we headed to our usual haunt at Greggs. There was plenty of time to spare, so we sat in and ate our breakfast at leisure, before leaving at 08:20.
We made our way to the train station and arrived in good time for the 08:49 train heading to Aberdeen.
After climbing aboard, we sat back in comfort, leaving dead on time.
Newcastle wasn’t the only thing we were leaving behind either. – the weather was miserable! From the moment we stepped out of our front door, it was grey and chucking it down with rain.
Rain-sodden, condensation-covered windows on the bus made it hard to see where we were going and people were letting me know on Twitter that it was pretty much the same in most of the north of England.
Here Comes the Sun
Once we were past Berwick, it was a different story. Glorious sunshine filled the window as we flashed by the lovely Scottish east coast, toward Edinburgh.
Indeed, the sunshine stayed with us through most of the day, to the point where I had to wear my woolly hat to protect myself from the sun, despite only having a tee-shirt on.
Having passed Edinburgh, we came to the Forth Rail Bridge, which I never tire of crossing.
Another of our favourite football grounds flashed by as we went through Kirkcaldy. The San Starko (Starks Park), home of Raith Rovers is one I definitely want to return to, at some point.
As we approached Dundee itself, it was time to cross another remarkable bridge – the Tay Rail Bridge.
Spanning the River Tay for an astonishing 2.75 miles, it is the second bridge to occupy this spot. The first, built in 1878, tragically collapsed in high winds the following year, just as a train was passing over it. All seventy-five passengers and crew on board sadly died in the incident.
Construction of the second Tay Bridge was begun in March 1882 and was officially opened to the public in June 1887.
I’m happy to report the bridge is still standing strong well over a century later.
Having crossed the Tay Bridge, the track curves sharply to the right and runs parallel to the river as it pulls into Dundee train station.
We got off the train and left the station.
Despite the sunshine, the wind was quite blustery by the river and we fastened up our coats. After our last trip to Dundee’s Dens Park (Hoppers Tale #55), we had determined to have a wander down the riverside if we had time. To be honest it was a bit of a disappointment and we soon gave up and headed into the city centre.
The Dandy and The Beano
There was something else I wanted to do this time that we didn’t do previously.
When I was a kid, the Beano and the Dandy were two hugely successful comics. It was only as an adult that I found out these two masterpieces were created in Dundee. To mark their success, there are statues of two of the more popular characters from those magazines in the city centre.
Desperate Dan and his dog (Dawg) tower above the smaller Minnie the Minx. There is also ‘Oor Wullie’ a couple of streets away and these characters form a small part of the number of statues and public art that litter Dundee’s city centre in abundance.
With this particular itch scratched, it was time to head up the hill towards Tannadice.
Well, by way of a bus, of course!
We caught a number 18 bus up the hill and got off in Arklay Street. From here, it’s just a short walk around the allotments that back onto the stadium.
Dundee United – Tannadice Park Exterior
We had decided to collect our tickets from the ticket office before it got busier later. This meant we would know exactly how much time we would need to get into the stadium, rather than potentially getting stuck in a queue.
The ticket office doubles up as the club shop and I was excited to see that replica shirts were on sale at just £22.00. Disappointing then, to see that there were none available in my size (fatty).
I contented myself with a pin badge and collected the tickets. I asked about programmes and was told by the lovely lady behind the counter that they were available via sellers around the ground.
After leaving the shop, we made our way along Tannadice Street, which runs along the southern side of the stadium.
The eastern side of the ground is one way in and one way out, so to do a proper circuit of Tannadice, we went there first.
The main reason for going up here was to get a look at the statue of Jim McLean.
McLean managed the Tangerines from 1971 until 1993, thus becoming the longest-serving and most successful manager in the Terrors’ history. He led them to three major honours including two League Cup wins and a League title in 1982/83.
Besides the statue, there is also the Jim McLean Fair Play Stand named in his honour. This is where the Livingston fans would be located for today’s game.
McLean passed away on Boxing Day 2020 but it is certain he will live on for many years in these parts.
Newspaper report and obituary article here.
The other interesting aspect of this corner of the ground is the centenary wall that has the names of Arabs fans past and present permanently embedded into Tannadice.
This club has quite a few nicknames by the way, doesn’t it? United, Terrors, Tangerines, Arabs…
Tangerines seems like quite an obvious one but why the Terrors, or Arabs?
The Terrors seems to be the club’s original nickname but despite extensive research, I couldn’t find out where that name comes from. If someone knows, I would love you to leave a comment below and let me know the answer…
The Arab’s nickname harks back to a Scottish Cup game between United and Albion Rovers in the 1962/63 season. After a cold snap left the Tannadice pitch unplayable a heater was brought in to get rid of the ice on the surface. Afterwards, the pitch was still found to be unplayable, so truckloads of sand were spread on the surface so that the game could be played.
It would seem that Dundee United played well on the sandy surface, winning the tie 3-0. One newspaper claimed they had “taken to the sand like Arabs” and the name stuck.
After leaving the McLean statue behind, we carried on up Tannadice Street towards Dens Park in the distance. Their magnificent floodlights were looking superb in the distance (I don’t have a floodlight fetish, you do!)
The main entrance is on this side of the stadium, although it really isn’t anything other than a doorway. There really isn’t a lot to say about the outside of the stadium in truth once you get past the statue and that wall. It’s all rather bland and disappointing.
At the far end of this stand is a little park for kids and it marks the ‘no-mans-land’ between Dens Park and Tannadice Park. It also makes for a great photo opportunity of Dens Park, where the outer wall of Tannadice is on the left.
To the right of the park is Sandeman Street, to the left is Tannadice Street and on the far side of Dens Park, lies Dens Road. All three parallel roads are connected vertically by Arklay Street where we got off the bus.
It was back, towards Arklay Street that we now went, along the side of the stand we would later be sitting in. Again, there wasn’t a lot to see from the exterior.
We left the stadium behind us as we headed to our next destination.
Dundee United – Tannadice Park Exterior Gallery
The Troll Inn
It was time for a pint and a rest from the sun that was blazing down on us – along with the cool wind! You have to love the UK weather, don’t you? It must be the only country on earth where you need to take your winter parka, Bermuda shorts and sunglasses with you on any day trip no matter the season.
At the end of Sandeman Street is Arklay Street and opposite the allotments behind Tannadice Park, is the Troll Inn.
An unassuming little pub that looks like the sort of place you might avoid if you were a stranger in town… Oh! Wait!
We walked in anyway and it was full of the expected orange-clad customers and… trolls!
Not your regular run-of-the-mill social media variety either. These were the real deal. Ugly, Scandinavian-looking trolls filled the shelves and poked their long proboscises haughtily over the patrons below.
I had to ask the owner what had made him fill his bar with these creatures. Turns out it had something to do with an ex-wife who hated them and wondering what to theme his new pub venture on twenty years ago. It was the obvious football, or… “I know! Trolls!”
Well, the decision seems to have paid off because he is still here with his trolls all these years later, although the ex-wife obviously isn’t. Unless she is the bigger encased troll on the counter behind the bar…
We ordered two pints of Tennents (£6.40) and sat back to watch the game on the TV screens above us. Hearts were thrashing Ross County, much to the delight of the people in the bar. Ross County is one of United’s main relegation rivals at the bottom of the League, so each of Hearts’ six goals was understandably met with cheers.
We had a couple of pints in here before heading off back to the stadium for the match.
Having left the Troll Inn behind, we got our match tickets out and headed for the turnstiles along Sandeman Street.
First, we came across a programme seller, as promised by the lady in the ticket office earlier. We bought a copy, priced at £3.50 for fifty glossy pages.
Dundee United – Tannadice Park Interior
Our tickets were bought online from the Dundee United ticketing website for £26 each and were collected from the ticket office. (The ticketing page always seems to put you in a short queue, even at times of the day or night when you wouldn’t expect it to be busy.)
You can enter via any of the turnstiles on the side of the stand, as the concourse is all connected in one long space.
We handed our tickets to the gateman in the traditional style and entered the famous old ground. In fact, this has been the club’s continuous home ground since they were first founded in 1909.
United was founded by the city’s Irish community following the collapse of Dundee Harp and were originally called Dundee Hibernian.
They changed their name to the now-familiar Dundee United in 1923.
The first thing we noticed was the amount of graffiti art and murals that were on the walls – in a good way. These were clearly done with the approval of the club and it adds a bit of colour to the breeze block walls that would otherwise look very dour.
George Fox Stand
We were situated in the George Fox Stand – lower tier and as such, I have no decent photographs of this side of the stadium. It is a double-tiered stand and, like the rest of the stadium, is all-seater and covered by a roof.
This stand was built in 1992 and is named after a former chairman of Dundee United.
We found our seats and I started taking pictures of the stadium.
Eddie Thompson Stand
To our left, is the East, or Eddie Thompson Stand. This is another double-tiered stand and is the end of the ground behind which, the Jim McLean statue stands watch.
This stand was built two years after the George Fox Stand, in 1994 and is named after a local businessman.
It is also the stand where Dundee United’s more vociferous fans congregate.
They were already waving a sea of orange and black flags
Jerry Kerr Stand
Opposite us, is the Jerry Kerr, or Main Stand. The away fans’ section to our right is a newer extension of this stand, known as the Jim McLean Fair Play Stand. It was built in 1997 and is the newest part of Tannadice Park.
The Main Stand is another double-tiered structure, though some executive boxes take up the lower tier at the pitch level. It is older than the previously mentioned structures.
It was opened in August 1962 and was the first in Scotland to be constructed that offered spectators a view unimpeded by structural supports.
It is built in an L-shape, with the stand stretching around the corner towards the Eddie Thompson Stand.
In this corner, is where the players’ tunnel is located at Tannadice. There is also a huge, unique floodlight on the roof in this corner of the ground.
There is a press gantry and electronic scoreboard above the executive boxes on the halfway line.
The newer section of this side of the ground has genuine double-tiered seating levels.
Completing the picture, on our right is the West Stand, also known as The Shed.
This is a single-tier construction and was not in use for today’s match.
Although it is now all-seated, this was the traditional ‘home end’ terrace, popular with the more vocal home fans. The original terracing is still visible in the northwest corner of the ground.
Nowadays, it is left empty unless demand for tickets makes it a viable option. In this case, it can be used for home or away fans, as the situation requires.
For visits by the big two clubs from Glasgow, this will typically be allocated to the away fans.
Tannadice Park has a total capacity of 14,223 and the playing surface is natural grass.