Good neighbours?

Imagine you live in a small Scottish city, and you’re fanatical about your team. But maybe, as we Brits are prone to do on matchday, you’ve had a wee bit too much to drink before heading to the game. Perhaps you’re feeling a bit nauseous, a little dizzy, your vision’s gone a bit blurry. You manage to get within the vicinity of the stadium, stumbling out of a nearby pub. You wander up to the gates, but something’s wrong. Your head is spinning. You realise you’re at Dundee United’s stadium, but you’re a fan of Dundee FC. You’ve made a wrong turn: not hard to do, and not hard to rectify, since your own stadium — Dundee FC’s stadium — is only about 150 yards away.

Google maps doesn’t lie: here indeed are Dundee’s two stadiums, within spitting distance on a windy day.

Dundee and Dundee United from the air

So what’s it like to be a supporter of a team who plays just 150 yards from their city rivals? I asked Paul, a lifelong Dundee United fan, to find out.

The two teams and stadiums have been living closely together for a long time – Dundee FC were founded in 1893, and United in 1909. Both have had success in the past, each having reached the semi-finals of the European Cup, though currently Dundee United are enjoying more success, a division above FC in the Scottish Premier League.

Dundee United play at Tannadice Park, Dundee FC at Dens Park, both on the same street: they even share a car park. Here they are, together behind the tower blocks:

Dundee Stadiums

Whilst the two teams are rivals when they play, what’s unusual is how the fans get on otherwise, as Paul told me:

While the intensity in the stadium at a (league/cup) Dundee derby is as intense as at any of the others in Scotland, one distinctive feature of the Dundee football rivalry is how well the fans get on outside of the stadium. It’s fairly common to see friends meet up after sitting in opposite ends of the stadium having light-hearted banter about the result. Another example is how common a sight it is to see both United and Dundee shirts on a single families washing line.

On the show “Football Factories”, a sharedDundee hooligan firm was also featured, but Paul told me they are fairly insignificant. So is there ever trouble between the two sets of fans when they play?

There’s a fair amount, but nothing too over the top. There’s usually a few arrests during Dundee derbies, but 95% of the time they’re for pitch invasions after goals. I do recall a game in I think 1999, a midweek clash between the sides at Tannadice, which was packed as I’ve ever seen it. After United had dominated much of the match, giving fans a lesson on how not to finish, Dundee’s James Grady scored a cracker out of nowhere to make it 1-0 in the last minute.

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Shortly after this, Billy Dodds scored for United, having it wrongly chalked offside. A lot of bother followed, climaxing in a United fan racing onto the pitch and going for Dundee’s goalkeeper, Rab Douglas. Being 6’5, Rab simply wrestled the guy to the ground and held him there until the police arrested him.

There’s also a lighter side to two grounds being so close together. On two occasions Paul has seen fans of visiting foreign teams wandering around the wrong stadium looking for a way in.

Overall, the proximity of the grounds, and the fact that the city does not seem to be cleanly divided along partisan lines, makes it an unusual city rivalry. As Paul explains, they can even share a drinking establishment:

One pub has a joint Dundee/Dundee United theme, with the logo being the DFC dark blue and United’s tangerine, along with photos, programmes etc. of both sides in the window.

This post was inspired by the Culture of Soccer blog’s feature on stadiums in close proximity, entitled “familiarity breeds contempt.” In Dundee’s case, though, it seems there’s something of an exception.

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