Dundee United 3 Dundee 0 (24th May 2015)
I was beginning to regret having walked most of the way up one of the hills by Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh the previous day. Not only did it mean I would eventually not have enough time to make paying the admission fee a Edinburgh Castle later worthwhile – and at £16.50 it would have taken a heck of a lot to be worthwhile – but it’d somehow pinged a muscle in my left foot which made every step up the hills of Dundee less than enjoyable.
Dundee is quite a hilly place too, and both of Dundee’s grounds are a 20 minute hike upwards up hills of a gradient that would make you reluctant to park your car without testing the handbrake first. Going back down was more like 15 minutes, or perhaps two if you were on roller-skates, but that’s no comfort when slogging your way up.
My route took me to Dens Park, home of Dundee FC first. Pubs nearby were staunchly dark blue, as the floodlights and then the stands of Dens Park came into view. I had hoped to be able to take a peek into Dundee’s ground, but beyond a small gap offering a view of now disused staircase which once fed to a large side terrace (visible from the street anyway) the interior was resolutely closed off. The odd glimpse of stand interior, as tantalising to the mentally committed groundhopper as a glimpse of ankle would be to Victorians, was all the old place would reveal.
Just 90 yards separate the corner of the Dens Park site with the walls of Dundee United’s Tannadice, in probably the maddest and yet most joyful juxtaposition of grounds in sport. There may be two in Budapest that are even closer (as well as two more non-league teams in Bedford) but these are the only two that have substantial stadiums. It’s hard not to stare at the Dundee fans queuing to get into the away end at Tannadice, and think about how it takes longer to queue up at the turnstile than it does to walk from Dens Park.
My entrance was round the other side. First stopping off at the club shop to buy a programme, something I’d failed to find any sign of at Easter Road the previous day, and have a look at the ground across the unusual sight of allotments behind the East Stand. It was also behind here that I found the strangely named “Troll Inn”, which seemed to have been cut off from pub trends and modern prices for the best part of 20 years. It’s a very long time since I’ve paid £2.70 for a pint of Guinness anywhere.
It was the sort of place where regulars would ask for “a pint of heavy”, and you felt it’d be used by the same Dundee United fans for generations. Unlike the pubs I’d seen earlier, this was nothing but orange and black, and a fine place to stop for a pre-match beer or two. At these prices, it’d be a waste not to.
If fans make one consistent complaint about new grounds and rebuilds, it’s that they are too samey, too uniform, lacking in character or individuality. They clearly don’t have Tannadice Park in mind, as it looks like it was designed in bits by six different people, each of whom had no idea what the other was doing. And it’s all the better for it.
The oldest part of the ground is a converted terrace at the end nearest Dens Park. Fittingly this would be filled with fans in Dark blue. Only fair they get the nearest stand after such a long journey to the game. It’s an old style pitched roof over seats, ending abruptly just past the penalty box. An unused portion of terracing in this corner is joined by a beheaded ex-floodlight pylon, now serving as a telephone mast.
Neatest part of the Ground is the George Fox stand. Two tiers of seats down one touchline hold about 40% of the whole capacity, at about 5500 seats.
Going round to most of the east end is a similar two tiered stand, albeit with one corner savagely sliced off where it meets the allotments. Allotments 1 Football 0. This stand also stops at the edge of a penalty box, where it bumps into the very odd L-shaped Jerry Kerr stand, which continues in one raised tier to the halfway line. Executive boxes fill what elsewhere is a blank wall centrally down the touchline.
This meets up with the newer Fairplay Stand, which continues the top tier along the same line as the Jerry Kerr stand, but decides to introduce a small lower tier for the last 40 yards or so down that side. This stand, at half a pitch length, then manages to have two different roof sections, neither of which match up with the Jerry Kerr stand, making this side’s roofs vaguely reminiscent of an ancient key.
I’ve no idea what the architects were thinking when they designed Tannadice, and probably nor do they, but if you are going down the barmy route of having a stadium 90 yards from another, you might as well top in with a barmy design too. And too their credit, it’s a ground that works too.
With 10,000 people sat within touching distance, or so it feels, of the players, it’s not hard to get at atmosphere. It wasn’t quite as loud as Easter Road the previous day, particularly as the one and a half sides decked in blue went very quiet as the game progressed, but it’s still a terrific ground for the neutral, or even someone nominally supporting the home side, as I tend to do for the day.
Home fans, nominal or otherwise, didn’t have long to wait for an early bit of derby day joy. In the 8th minute, United’s Nadir Ciftci chased a through ball on the edge of the box, but Dundee’s keeper, who looked a clear favourite to clear, somehow missed the ball completely as he slid in. This left a surprised and delighted Ciftci the simple task of putting the ball into an empty net for a 1-0 lead.
He got his second after half an hour. After a clumsy bump “caused” Ciftci to tumble in the box, the ref pointed to the spot, and Ciftci casually stepped up to double United’s lead.
Dundee, kicking towards their own fans, and indeed ground, weren’t exactly creating much of an impression. One low shot did force a good save out of the United keeper, but Dundee’s fans, in good voice at the start, got more and more subdued as the game went on.
If Dundee were hoping the 2nd half might be an improvement, it didn’t last long. A determined tackle led to a through ball which put United’s Blair Spittal away, and he steered the ball past the Dundee keeper. He was already running to celebrate in a less than happy blue corner of Tannadice before the ball had rolled into the back of the net.
Dundee United should have added to Dundee’s gloom, even if never really looking like matching the six they put past them on New Year’s Day. A few showboating stopovers from Ciftci and a cheeky backheeled effort that nearly fooled the Dundee keeper were perhaps the highlights. For Dundee, a free kick that hit the outside of the side-netting was about as near as they came, but the game was already up long before then.
It wasn’t quite the party it could have been. A win for St Johnstone at Aberdeen meant there would be no European football at Tannadice next season. Regardless, the home team took the applause from their fans at the final whistle. The Dundee fans also applauded the efforts of their own side, although the generosity hinted at it being for the team’s top six finish rather than the weak display today.
With the season over, those in orange & black weaved a happy way home. For those in dark blue the trip home wouldn’t be so great, but at least it’d be quick.