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« Going for Gold | Main | Sound of tumbleweed will be music to the ears of Number 10 »
Sunday
May052013

The day Dundee United won the Scottish Premier League

Hard to believe it's 30 years since Dundee United won the Scottish Championship for the first and only time in the club's history.

The title was won in the most extraordinary circumstances on May 14, 1983, and I was in a capacity crowd of 29,206 at Dens Park, home of United's city rivals, to see them do it.

I was living and working in London so I had to catch a train to Edinburgh the previous day and continue the journey to Dundee on the morning of the match.

It was the last day of the season and three teams - United, Aberdeen and Celtic - could all win the league if results went their way.

The outcome however was in United's hands. Beat Dundee and the title was theirs.

The pressure was immense but United were two up after eight minutes. Then Dundee scored and it was 2-1 at half-time.

The second half seemed to go on forever. Aberdeen were winning and news filtered through that Celtic, two down against Rangers at half-time, had come back and were winning 4-2.

Thousands were watching the game and listening to their pocket radios. The final whistle couldn't come soon enough but for those last few minutes time seemed to stand still.

I'll never forget it, or the celebrations after the game.

Former player Paul Sturrock recalls Dundee United’s title triumph in today's Scotland on Sunday. It's a great read:

Within 24 hours of becoming legends at the packed home of their biggest rivals, United’s players found themselves at Station Park, Forfar, playing in a sparsely-attended benefit match for Billy Bennett and John Clark, two stalwarts of the Angus club.

Sturrock couldn’t play, as he had been injured at Dens, but he still had a job to do for his hungover team-mates, who were desperate for food to soak up the alcohol. “I was sent to find a man who had a shop that sold bridies. This boy told me where the guy lived so I knocked on his door. I don’t know if he was the baker, but he had a key, and he went round to heat them up. That was my job for the day, bringing back pies and bridies for all the players. The subs were even eating them in the dugout.

"We lost the game 2-1, and Jim [McLean, the manager] wasn’t too happy. If I remember rightly, he picked near enough every player that had played the day before. It was quite incredible. Half the players couldn’t stand up. They had been drinking all night. We were pished out of our minds.”

The following season - inconceivable now - United reached the semi-final of the European Cup where they lost, 3-2 on aggregate, to Roma.

In 1987 the club went one better and reached the final of the UEFA Cup, defeating Barcelona home and away in the quarter-finals.

The magnitude of this feat can be judged by the fact that it was another 26 years before Barcelona were to once again lose both legs of a European tie (to Bayern Munich, in 2013, in case you're wondering).

The Mail Online has the story and it features an hilarious 'Where are they now?' section that includes these two entries:

John Holt
Apparently told manager Jim McLean on the morning after United's victory that he was thinking about joining Forfar as they had offered him a car. Eventually declined (although later did make the move) and now works in United's academy.

John Clark
Walked out on the club after the UEFA Cup campaign to become a fisherman but returned shortly after. Was most recently manager of Whitehill Welfare.

See: The last time Barcelona lost both legs of a European tie

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