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Saturday
Jul132019

50th anniversary of the tangerine dream

Since the war it’s been rare for professional football clubs to change their primary colours.

Leeds did it in the Sixties, changing from royal blue shirts to an all white kit inspired by Real Madrid.

There may be other examples but the one I’m most familiar with is Dundee United which changed from white to tangerine in 1969, 50 years ago.

The story behind it is quite interesting, if you like football. If you don’t, look away now.

In 1967 United were one of a number of European clubs invited to spend the summer competing in one of America’s first attempts at a professional ‘soccer’ league.

In the absence of home grown clubs and players, the Americans simply imported foreign teams and rebranded them.

United, for example, became Dallas Tornado and wore an all tangerine strip with blue and white trim.

Given the nature of American ‘soccer’ in the late Sixties the story gets a bit complicated after that but in 1969 United were again invited to represent Dallas Tornado, this time in something called the International Cup.

At the same time, allegedly at the suggestion of manager Jerry Kerr’s wife, United decided to change their own colours from white (with black trim) to tangerine (with black trim).

And here’s the irony. My family moved to Scotland in May 1969 and the reason I decided to support United rather than their rivals Dundee (who play in dark blue and white) was based on nothing more than the fact that I preferred United’s strip - the all white strip.

Unknown to me the decision to change had already been made and on August 4, 1969, United played their first match - a friendly against Everton - in their new colours.

On August 30, at the age of ten, I watched United for the first time. It was against Rangers and the score was 0-0 but what I remember most was the crowd - a roaring mass of 22,000 people, the capacity at the time.

I went to that game with my father - we stood in a small enclosure close to the pitch - but he had little interest in football. To his credit I think he took me so I knew how to get to the ground by myself in future.

Thereafter, every other Saturday, year after year, I made my own way to Tannadice, usually alone because none of my friends at school in St Andrews supported United.

The new colour grew on me although I remember my first replica kit raising a few eyebrows the first time I wore it.

To say it stood out in the sea of blue and green and white hooped replica shirts is an understatement.

The new strip also coincided with the new era of colour television. A day or two after we got our first colour TV in 1972, the highlights of United versus Aberdeen were featured on BBC Scotland.

I missed that game so I was excited at the thought of seeing United - in tangerine - on the telly.

Instead, to avoid a clash with Aberdeen’s all red strip, they played in their second kit - which was all white!

(It didn’t help that the quality of the picture was terrible. I don’t think United’s floodlights were good enough for the cameras at that time.)

However, what most supporters consider to be the ‘classic’ United strip - probably because it coincided with the club’s most successful period - is not all tangerine at all but has black shorts, an important difference.

They were introduced by Adidas in the mid Seventies to replicate the look of the great Dutch team led by Johan Cruyff. (I’m sure the company issued a statement comparing United to the double World Cup finalists.)

Every so often an all tangerine kit reappears and you can hear the collective sigh of disappointment from supporters, never more than in 2017/18 when the shoulders appeared to be a weird shade of rust brown.

I didn’t mind it, to be fair. These kits however ...

Anyway the 2019/20 strip was unveiled this week and thankfully - because it would have been easy for the new American owners to pay homage to the original Dallas Tornado kit - new kit suppliers Macron have given most supporters exactly what they want (see below).

If you think a 60-year-old man writing about football strips must have lost his mind, you’re probably right.

Nevertheless United - and that tangerine kit - have been a big part of my life.

On a Saturday afternoon, with the silvery Tay glistening in the background and the sun shining down on those brightly coloured tangerine seats, there are few other places I’d rather be.

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