Adventures in Football #31: Tannadice Park (Dundee United FC)
October 2, 2021
DUNDEE UNITED vs. ROSS COUNTY
I’ve been meaning to go to Scotland again for a while. It’s been some time since I was in Glasgow, and I’ve never been across to the Eastern part of Scotland at all. I’ve never really had a Scottish team. I’ve basically just supported whoever was pushing the Old Firm. So, when Hearts had a spell of threatening their dominance, I cheered them on. I’ve recently started being a Dundee Utd fan because of my co-host on the Arn & Eddie Experience; Eddie Sideburns. He was born in Dundee and is a lifelong Dundee Utd fan. So here we are.
When I was a kid Dundee Utd had a spell where they looked like, along with Aberdeen, breaking up the traditional Old Firm dominance of Scottish football. In 1983 Dundee Utd won their first Scottish title and Aberdeen, under Six Alex Ferguson, won back-to-back titles for Aberdeen after that. Since then, Celtic and Rangers have won every single Scottish league title. Dundee United won the Scottish Cup twice, in 1994 and 2010 and the League Cup twice in 1980 and 1981. During the 80s they had success in Europe and were runners up in the UEFA Cup in 1987 and were only knocked out of the 1984 European Cup at the semi-final stage because Roma bribed the referee.
Dundee United were founded in 1909 and known as Dundee Hibernian until 1923. Tannadice Park has been around for longer than that, used for football matches as far back as 1882. It previously hosted games for Dundee East End, Dundee Violet, Johnstone Wanderers and Dundee Wanderers. The ground is famous for being very close to neighbouring Dundee FC. Danny Dyer couldn’t get his nut round it. I could. They’re just very close. How close?
Not sure this does the gap justice but Tannadice is just behind that tree. You can just about see the floodlights and the Jim McLean stand. But, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Kick off was at 3pm on the Saturday. We left home in the afternoon on Thursday. Basically Maria, my wife, wanted to drive but didn’t fancy doing the whole trip in one day so we took a pleasant Thursday afternoon drive to Kendal.
I love the lake district. It’s a nice reminder that England has pretty bits. We stayed in a hotel right on a lake. It should have been a relaxed journey but a lorry went a pisser on the M6 and we ended up on a detour through Stafford that turned a 3 hour drive into a 5.5 hour drive. Pair that up with persistent rain and people queuing for bloody petrol and Thursday was less fun than I’d hoped for. We woke up to rabbits frolicking outside the window though. Every cloud.
After a substantial lie-in on Friday, we headed North into Scotland. As soon as we hit Scotland it started raining. It stopped on Monday (presumably). We were aiming to stop for food somewhere in Southern Scotland, but I had forgotten how little of anything there is between the border and Glasgow. We ended up dropping into Hamilton and having haddock and a pint at the Cricklewood. The adherence to Covid precautions in Scotland is vastly different to England, where everyone has given up. The difference between a services in England and Scotland was like night and day.
On arriving anywhere in Scotland we had to sign in to track and trace, which I don’t have. Also as I’m double jabbed I don’t have to isolate if I get pinged. So, I kinda don’t see the point of it. This was especially true when in Glasgow we had to wear masks to walk into a pub and then immediately took them off. We had masks on for about six feet. I’m not complaining about Scottish rules here but the difference between the two near neighbours has never felt more palpable than regarding their comparative Covid restrictions.
Despite it pissing it down in Glasgow we still managed to get some tourist stuff in. I’ve seen most of central Glasgow before, but Maria hadn’t so I showed her around the various statues with traffic cones on their heads.
I see James Watt got one to celebrate being dead for 200 years. Fair fucks. What I’d not seen before is the Necropolis and I’m sad it was raining so heavily because I would have loved to stroll around it. It’s so stunning to see a massive graveyard hanging in the hills overlooking the city. It’s fucking badass.
But you’re not here for a tour guide to Glasgow. We met up with Eddie for a few beers and then parted ways until the morning when he picked us up for a tour of the Kingdom of Fife. We went to Anstruther for haddock and chips, and I can’t recommend this place enough. If you’re in the area, the Anstruther Fish Bar was voted chippie of the year a couple of times and with good reason. We drove around and checked out St Andrews before heading up to Dundee.
I won’t give away Eddie’s parking tips because I don’t want his parking spot to get overrun. Suffice to say we didn’t have to pay, and it was only a short walk from the ground. I imagine the parking might be harder if it was a bigger game. Say an Old Firm opponent or the Dundee derby game. After a short stroll, in the rain obviously, we took our seats up in the George Fox stand.
Predicting bad weather, I’d picked seats in the upper tier, where there was no danger of it raining into the stand. It turned out to be a smart move as it basically drizzled for most of the match. To get to the upper tier there is a special turnstile, #41, which is around the corner from the other turnstiles. This side of the ground used to be a natural bank for standing supporters. It’s a little weird walking up a hill and suddenly you’re overlooking the entire ground.
The George Fox stand, named after the former chairman, is where we’re sat. It has excellent views of the pitch and is in good shape having been constructed in 1992 after the Taylor report. The seating is comfortable and there’s a gantry running along the top behind the seats where there are toilets and refreshments including a “premier” half time experience with a sit-down meal. I mistakenly thought there was a massive queue for food and such but it turns out people hang around outside the refreshments area, so it was actually easy to get to.
Off to our left is the main stand for the passionate supporters; the Eddie Thompson Stand. Also named after a former chairman. It has a similar design to the George Fox stand and opened in 1994 so it’s in good nick. There’s a weird space between the two stands that feels like something should be done with but there is plenty of room in Tannadice without touching it. The Eddie Thompson and George Fox stands were packed and what the TV viewer will see for most of the game. The attendance was 6,548 but the ground seats 14,000.
Off to the right is the Carling Stand. This is the former Shed end. It used to be the only covered part of the stadium so was the most popular part and home to the most regular supporters. The Shed end was completely empty and no tickets were sold for it. I was told it opens up for the bigger games to allow more fans in, but I think it’s weird to block out an entire stand. I’ve seen it in English football too. Usually in less popular cup competitions.
Across from us is a hodgepodge set of stands. The Jerry Kerr over in the left corner and the Jim McLean stand where the away fans are located. I’m pretty sure no tickets were sold for the Jerry Kerr stand, again because of lack of ticket sales. It also gives Dundee United fans a natural barrier from the away fans. I’ve not captured it on camera, unfortunately, but there’s a lovely janky three level effect to the stand here. It looks like it was built in four goes. Ross County didn’t bring a lot of fans. To be fair, it’s 150 miles to Dingwall, which is further north than Inverness.
Onto the play; Dundee United have sizeable performance issues. Stemming entirely from not knowing what to do while in possession. All four of the defenders fancied themselves capable of knocking a ball over the top and into the channels and it never came off, so they turned the ball over constantly. Dundee United looked a lot better when the ball managed to find its way into central midfield where they have quality players like Jeandro Fuchs and Dylan Levitt.
Ross were even worse. They had a huge reliance on winger Joseph Hungbo, who’s on loan from Watford. They looked dangerous whenever he got the ball and fairly useless the rest of the time. Dundee United went ahead through left winger Ilmari Niskanen. A low shot that the Ross keeper let in under his body. It was deserved and Dundee United should have won comfortably if they’d just kept a hold of the ball better in the second half. In the end it became a nervy affair with poor Eddie going through the wringer.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed Tannadice. It’s the kind of ground that has a mixture of excellent modern stands and just enough weird shit (the gangway from the Jim McLean stand and the uneven roof) that draws me in. The atmosphere was decent, and I appreciate Dundee United having their own song. “Oh, it’s United, they’re my home team. It’s United, black and tangerine!”
I also enjoyed watching birds landing on the floodlights in Dens Park in the background. Able to chill out over there while Dundee United are playing. Eddie is eager to find out what I thought of Scottish place names after giggling more than once on the journey back to Glasgow. Truth is, there were so many I can’t remember them. However, I have seen Scotland’s Secret Bunker. It’s the worst kept secret in the business. It’s signposted! Take better care of your secrets Scotland.