We pick up the story as our two intrepid adventurers had survived the haunting lure of the sunset over Gayfield Park, the bitter North Sea air, overcome the temptations of Pleasureland, the enticement of DeVitos and finally the promised lands of the exposed flesh of Arbroath’s very own version of the Playboy Mansion (have I told you before I’ve been there?). Danny and Stuart had arrived safely back in Dundee, with a thirst like Desperate Dan, surely the most famous son of the city.
Danny had come up with the cunning idea of following the Dundee Real Ale trail and so we set off into the city centre, avoiding the temptations of Dundee’s Premier Karaoke Bar and into our first destination – The Bank Bar. Things could only get better D’Ream once told Tony Blair and the same was true of our first offering from Dundee. A God-awful pint (well almost as the barrel ran out and was topped up with something else) of Pentland IPA hardly went down smoothly. But soon we were off and running in style. A long glass of Blue Moon (hold the slice of orange Darling) across the road in The Trades, A thick treacly pint of Leffe in The Phoenix, a Deuchers IPA in Langs Bar and a wonderful Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Finished Ale in the Drouthy Neebors had us purring, talking crap for Engla..sorry Scotland.
At some point we had to do it though, and it came at the end of the evening. Believe it or not but we are no Huddo Hudson’s in the Lothario stakes these days, so our night would end with a nightcap, a bite to eat and Match of the Day in bed. Not together I hasten to add. Whilst our booking at the Premier Inn was in the name of Mr and Mrs Fuller, there were two beds in the room. Of course we went for an Irn Bru and vodka for our final wee dram, and a deep-fried Mars Bar, chips and curry sauce as our supper. What more could you want from a night out?
Sunday morning. Dundee Derby Day. The sun shone into our room, bouncing off the Tay, reminding us that days don’t get much better than this. Arguably Scotland’s third biggest derby match (and argue we had last night I can tell you as my vote was Ross County v Inverness Caledonian Thistle), and one that hadn’t been played for over six years. Over breakfast the debate raged as Ayr v Kilmarnock, Peterhead v Elgin City and Motherwell v Hamilton Accie’s were thrown into the mix by our waitress as she served us our full English. Passions run deep in the City of Discovery.
Danny had a good idea, or so he told me. “Let’s go up to the Law. It has views over the whole city”. After our excesses of Saturday I figured that a short walk would blow away our cobwebs. What he didn’t tell me was the Law was an extinct volcano, the highest point in the city – in fact the next nearest highest point going eastwards was somewhere in Russia. So we walked upwards, and we carried on walking upwards. As we stopped for oxygen at the midway point it became obvious that we had fought the Law and the Law had won. Or had it. A passing pedestrian told us that there was a bar at the top. As if by magic we were inspired to carry on, finally reaching the summit, knowing exactly how Edmund Hilary must have felt back on Everest in 1953. The views were stunning and whilst a normal person would have been drawn to the serene beauty of Firth of Tay, all we could look at was THE reason why we were here in the first place…Tannadice Street.
There aren’t two football grounds in the United Kingdom that are closer together than Dundee and Dundee United. In fact apart from Spakenburg, I cannot think of any closer in the world. For years we had tried to find someone who would be prepared to run between the two grounds, wearing slippers of course to settle a bet. I had always said that you could do the run in less than 20 seconds, Danny over 25 seconds. Today we would find out.
The streets were relatively quiet as we descended the east face of The Law, and after a wander down Sanderson Street into Tannadice Street we found ourselves in the Troll Inn. No, seriously, there is a pub, the closest one to Dundee United’s ground that is a) called the Troll Inn and b) had numerous troll dolls on various shelves around the pub. After a few McEwans in here they would take on a life of their own. The excitement was palpable. The last derby game back in August had ended 3-0 to Dundee United, although recent form suggested a repeat result would be unlikely, or so we told ourselves as we placed a small wager on the draw. The last derby game played at Dens Park had been back in April 2005 so you could understand the excitement on the streets as we walked back up to the ground.
Everyone seemed quite jolly. There was no animosity on show, with a strong police presence out enjoying the sunshine rather than having to worry about fans having a go at each other. The ground was a sell-out with Dundee United given the whole of the Bob Shankley (brother of Bill) behind the goal and half of the Main Stand. The players warmed up on a pitch that was bathed in sunshine, ready for the 155th meeting between the two neighbours. Recent history hadn’t been kind on the home side, having spent far too many seasons outside the top flight. However, historically they have very similar records. Both have won the League Championship once (United the most recent 30 years ago during their golden period), four cups and even both reached the European Cup semi-finals. History is very special to the fans in these parts as we saw with a parade of some of the old legends at half time.
Dundee 0 Dundee United 3 – Dens Park – Sunday 9th December 2012
As the third Dundee United goal hit the back of the net with ten minutes to go the home fans flooded out onto the streets around the ground, with a sinking feeling that this could be the last derby game played here for another seven years. The Arabs had outclassed the Dee over the ninety minutes, pure and simple, earning the bragging rights over family, friends, work colleagues and strangers in the street for another four months.
Danny had been in touch with the club as soon as tickets were on sale and managed to secure us some of the best seats in the Main Stand, right in the middle of WAG central. Great views to our left and right, although the incredibly strong sun shining in our eyes did make watching the main event difficult.
I grew up remembering the legendary Dundee United side of the early 1980’s. Whilst many of my playground team mates wanted to be Rush, Dalglish or Hansen, I wanted to be Narey, Malpas, Milne or the legendary Paul Sturrock. After winning the league in 1983 they almost brought UEFA Cup glory back to Scotland, losing in the two-legged final (those were the days) live on TV against Göteborg. But despite the opinion of a very sad and frustrated fan who sat behind us (and accused us of being “Arabs” because we took a picture of their second goal), we were actually supporting the home side.
Despite some initial home pressure down the flanks, it was United who drew first blood when a Dundee United corner was flicked on at the near post and Watson’s well taken header rippled in the back of the net. It was harsh on the home side but they were always going to suffer if they couldn’t put their chances away. Dundee really should have been level on the half hour mark when Matt Lockwood’s cross found the head of McAlister, who nodded to Milne, but he volleyed left-footed over the bar from eight yards out when he should have hit the net.
The home fans soon realised it wouldn’t be their afternoon shortly after the second half when everyone in the ground bar the referee and his assistants saw Baird’s cross hit a United player on the arm in the area. As the Weather Girls (and I don’t mean Becky Mantin or Lucy Verasamy) would have said, the humidity was rising in the stadium and the Dundee fans on the opposite side of the pitch were getting agitated. Their mood didn’t improve when the referee bizarrely gave a penalty for a foul on Armstrong after he had played a ball into the area. Armstrong wasn’t complaining and stepped up, slammed the ball past Douglas and Dundee United were as good as winners.
The third was simply icing on the cake when it came ten minutes later. There was an air of resignation when it came with Flood’s shot from the edge of the area bouncing off Benedictus, then off Douglas and a post, before it came back and hit the goalkeeper again and rolled into the net. Insult + injury and all that business. By that stage our furious friend had left, heading home to kick his cat no doubt. The final whistle saw some muted celebration in the home end, although they knew the pain that a derby day defeat could bring only too well.
We still had time for a drink or two, watching the end of the Manchester derby and all the poison that two sets of fans could produce. Yet here we were in a bar, lined with memorabilia of both sides, with fans from each end of Tannadice Street happy to share a beer together – exactly how local rivals should.
This was a derby that still belongs to the fans. No racial hatred, no bitterness and no religious divide. Just two sets of fans who shared modest ambitions and a genuine love for their city. Dundee had been a good host and for that we thank you all. Perhaps we could be tempted back in March for the return fixture 21.1 seconds down the road.
More pictures from an excellent day out can be found here.