Dundee Football Clubs and Stadiums

Dens Park and Tannadice Park from above
 

Dundee isn’t the first city that you think of when it comes to major Scottish footballing rivalries. The Old Firm clash in Glasgow is one of the most blood and thunder city derbies in world football, with religious links being as important to the clashes as the sport itself. Perhaps even Edinburgh has more of a claim to being a footballing rivalry city than Dundee, thanks in no small part to the fact that Hearts and Hibs is one of the oldest city derbies that was played anywhere. The two sides went head-to-head for the first time on Christmas Day back in 1875.

Dundee isn’t to be ignored entirely, though. The city is arguably known for its scientific discovery more than its football, with Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic exploration ship, the RRS Discovery, having been built there, for example. When it comes to the football, however, there is the fact that the two football grounds, Dens Park and Tannadice Park, are just 0.2 miles away from each other. That makes them the closest grounds geographically to each other in all of Britain. What is there to know about the two clubs that makes their rivalry an interesting one?

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Football Stadiums in Dundee

Stadium Capacity Team League
Dens Park 11,506 Dundee Scottish Premiership
Tannadice Park 14,223 Dundee United Scottish Championship

Dundee - Dens Park (1.07 Miles to The Caird Hall)

Dens Park
John Lord / Flickr.com

Dundee Football Club was formed in 1893 and their home stadium is Dens Park. There is a famous name associated with the club: Shankly. No, not the Bill Shankly that went on to become the founding father of modern day Liverpool Football Club, but rather his brother Bob. Managerial talent must have run in the family, given that he led the club to the top-flight title in 1962, the only time that they have won it in their history. He also took them to the semi-finals of the European Cup the following season, eventually going on to lose 5-2 on aggregate to the competition’s eventual winners AC Milan.

Long before league titles and European trips, though, was the formation of the club. This occurred when East End and Our Boys, two local clubs in the city, decided to merge in the hope that they would be able to be elected to the Scottish Football League. It was a good plan as it paid off, with the newly formed club playing its first game in August of 1893. It was a 3-3 draw with Rangers, which might have led some people to believe that the future was going to be a bright one for the new side. That would have been a misleading opinion to form, given that the first ten years of life for Dundee was a bit of a struggle. Once they came out the other side of that, however, they made it to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup in 1895 and again in 1897.

Still, life remained mixed for some time. In 1894 the club beat Newton Heath, the side that would go on to become Manchester United, 2-1 in Dundee, yet the year after they lost to Celtic by a record score of 11-0. They made the move to their current home, Dens Park, in 1899 and their fortunes changed accordingly. They came close to winning the Scottish top-flight in 1903, missing out to Hibernian despite conceding just twelve goals all year - a record for a British club to this day. They missed out on the title again in 1907 and 1909, the latter time by a single point. The following season saw the club pick up its first ever trophy when they won the Scottish Cup Final, meaning that the move to Dens Park was seen as a wise one.

The club’s home ground is, in fact, proof positive of the relationship between the city’s two football teams isn’t as fiery as in other locations. That is found in the fact that it was owned for a time by John Bennett, a local businessman who had invested heavily in Dundee having previously been a director for Dundee United. He then returned to the Dundee United board whilst still being the owner of Dens Park. That isn’t the only weird and wonderful story to do with the stadium, however. In the 1930s the football club allowed the Dundee Greyhound Racing Company to use the location to host greyhound racing. The initial deal was for ten years, but the racing only lasted from 1932 until 1936. They tried it again sixty years later, with greyhound racing taking place their from 1994 until 1996.

Dundee United - Tannadice Park (1.02 Miles to The Caird Hall)

Just three hundred metres down the road from Dens Park is the home of Dundee’s city rivals, Dundee United. Tannadice Park opened its doors for the first time in 1882 when it was known as Clepington Park and hosted the matches of Dundee East End. From 1894 until 1909 it was the home ground of local side Dundee Wanderers, who enjoyed a year in the Scottish Football League in 1894. Dundee Hibernian, the club that would change its name to Dundee United in 1923, was formed in 1909 and began playing its games in Tannadice Park straight away.

Life wasn’t perfect for Dundee Hibernian, with the club coming close to going out of business in 1923. They were saved from that ignominy and that was why they decided to become Dundee United, hoping that a change of name would give the club a wider appeal. That may well have been the case, but a new name didn’t offer more success to a side that went on to be relegated to and promoted from the Second Division three times from 1925 to 1932. It wasn’t until Jerry Kerr arrived at the end of the 1950s that a degree of success and stability took hold of the club. He not only got them promoted back to the Scottish top-flight but also went on the establish them as a club in the division; in fact, they didn’t drop out of the league again until 1995.

Kerr handed the reigns over to Jim McLean in 1971 and what followed was the most successful period in the club’s history to date. They won back-to-back Scottish League Cups in 1979 and 1980, but that was nothing compared to the top-flight title that they won in 1983. That allowed them to play in the European Cup the following year and they lost 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals of the competition to the eventual losing finalists Roma. In 1987 they made it one step further in the UEFA Cup, losing out in the final to Swedish side Göteborg, despite the fact that the match was played in their home stadium of Tannadice Park.

In terms of their rivalry with Dundee United, it’s 'traditional' rather than fiery. That is to say, the two clubs dislike each other because their home grounds are close enough to mean that you could throw a shoe between them, but they’re not an angry or violent set of fans like you might find elsewhere in football. The Dundee Derby lacked a bit of a fizzle when the two sides were in different divisions from each other, something that has happened on quite a regular basis over the years. In fact, such is the lack of bitterness between the two clubs that they even considered sharing a ground when the Scottish Football Association made an unsuccessful bid to host the European Championships back in 2008. There is actually a more intense rivalry between Dundee United and Aberdeen, thanks largely to their successes when Jim McLean was at the former and Alex Ferguson managed the latter.