Bryan Kay wrote this great article for “In Bed With Maradona” on Jim McLean’s time as manager of Dundee United.
Anyone even slightly conversant with Scottish football in the second half of the last century knows how incredible McLean’s achievements were at Dundee United.
One area the article doesn’t address is how hard McLean worked to attract crowds to see his team play.
There is also a story within a story that includes my involvement (small as it was) in the attempt to convince more people to go to Tannnadice – even though I was and still am a Dundee rather than a Dundee United supporter.
As a teenager I was friends with a number of folks who worked for the two Dundee newspapers. I would “guest” for the football team in the Sunday morning league and in the summer I regularly made appearances for the Press Club cricket team.
As is usual in a small city Jim McLean was tight with a number of the local reporters trusting them far more than scribes from the Glasgow or Edinburgh papers.
Being in the dressing room with some of these worthies (I believe the likes of Dick Donnelly and Ron Scott are still active) gave me access to the sort of information that never hit the newspapers – for an assortment of reasons. I have to admit it was fun to spread the “real” news to classmates after a game.
One that sticks in my mind concerned a certain Dundee United striker who moved south and had a very successful career before making his mark as a soccer analyst. (I will let you work that one out for yourself).
The reported story had the striker missing a game because a mid-air collision in training had led to a clash of heads and resulting stitches.
The real story was that he had been on the end of a kicking from a Dundee fan in a well-known dance hall in the city.
The issue of attendance, or lack thereof, at Tannadice was a recurring topic and one day a friend pushed McLean too hard on the lack of entertainment besides the game.
It was a time when the City of Dundee Police Pipeband was regarded as a star attraction.
Wee Jim turned the tables and offered my friend the job of coming up with pre-game and half time entertainment. My friend had gone too far and could not back-down without losing face and so he was forced to take the job on.
I got sucked in because they needed to make sure that there were enough people willing to make a fool of themselves – certainly at the outset.
I wasn’t willing to go so far but I did have a couple of mates at school who were willing to do pretty much anything for free admission to the game and maybe something else on the side in terms of “prize-money.”
And so I became involved in recruiting schoolboy friends to participate in some of the wacky contests and competitions that were put on to try and up the entertainment value pre-game and at half time.
My job would be to arrange for some of the contestants in the likes of the pie-eating contest, pillow fights while balancing on beams or the weird races they held.
I can’t remember how long the promotions lasted but it is one of these things you look back on and wonder how you ever got involved.
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