On a windy winter evening on 28th December 1879, a 6 carriage train was crossing the first Tay Bridge across the Firth of Tay to Dundee when it collapsed. 75 passengers and crew were on board and all drowned. It had only been open for 18 months to replace a ferry.
A second, stronger bridge was opened in 1887, this time double instead of single tracked and its still there. The line originates in Edinburgh and continues to Aberdeen. The bridge is 2.75 miles long (3.5 k). I always look down to the right hand side going north where you can still see the original pilings from the first bridge and think of the lives lost almost 140 years ago.
Dundee is booming with massive construction along the river bank with new hotels, art gallery and museums, a major hotel and the train station being reconstructed. I walked into town and caught the No18 bus outside the historic high school to Tannadice Street. I was told it was over a mile uphill so I took the advice but walked back to the station after the match....all downhill.
My last visit was 30 years ago when Dundee United hosted IFK Gothenburg in the 2nd leg of the UEFA Cup Final which finished 1-1, with the Swedes winning the cup on aggregate 2-1. I helped my friend Sven take down the plastic advertising banners that he had erected for Swedish TV. I was so pleased with the home supporters attitude that I wrote a letter to Sepp Blatter the then FIFA secretary and the club were awarded the very first FIFA FAIR PLAY Award. Tannadice Park is now all seater and before the match I walked up the street and only 100 yards away on the other side of the street is Dens Park, home of Dundee FC who are now in the Scottish Premier League while United are in the championship.. hopefully for a short spell.
In 1967 I was at graduate school at University of Texas in Austin and read that the Dallas Tornado would play in the new USA..United Soccer Association, and would 'borrow' Dundee United under manager Jerry Kerr to represent them. A rival non sanctioned league the NPSL had been formed with European and Latin American players, much to the annoyance of FIFA.
United played at the Cotton Bowl and were housed by Lamar Hunt the Dallas team's owner in his old fraternity house on the SMU campus. I wrote to the Dundee Courier sports editor and offered my services. I called collect to the editor after each home game and sent reports and rolls of film a couple of times a week by post with stories of the teams activities, but never visited Dundee until 20 years later. Los Angeles Wolves(Wolverhampton Wanderers) beat Washington Whips( Aberdeen) in the USA final. Boston Shamrocks were Shamrock Rovers, Bangu of Rio -- -Houston Stars, Cerro of Montevideo-New York Skyliners, Detroit Cougars- Glentoran, Toronto City-Hibernian, Vancouver Royal Canadians-Sunderland, San Francisco Golden Gate Gales-ADO den Haag, Cleveland Stokers-Stoke City, Chicago Mustangs-Cagliari. The following year USA and NPSL surviving clubs combined for NASL.
Paul Reid the commercial manager welcomed me and showed me around, including the souvenirs and press cutting from the old USA season and from 1979 when the new NASL was formed and United returned for half a season at the old Cobb Stadium. They played West Ham United in the guise of Atlanta Chiefs with Bobby Moore. Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, while the second half of the season featured THE REAL Dallas Tornado. I also enjoyed meeting Tom Cairns the United historian and researcher and the Club Honorary President Mrs CathThompson of the DC Thompson published company. They own the Dundee Courier plus famous comic magazines The Dandy and The Beano which I used to buy weekly as a young lad.
Falkirk FC, The Bairns were the visitors in the Championship. They played in all black with a narrow bliue and red stripe. United wore all tangerine. Dallas Tornado outfitted them in tangerine and blue in 1967, a change from their white jersey and black shorts. After their 1969 visit to Texas they returned to change into tangerine with black shorts, which Mrs Jerry Kerr had approved of....until this day.
Not much of a match to watch, very dour and lacking in skill and wayward shooting. 1-1 was the result. 6,500 was the attendance, by far the largest that afternoon in The Championship. Tannadice is a nice stadium with plenty of corporate facilities and a beautiful and well maintained pitch and a doube decker stand at the far side with plenty of vocal support. The home fans are called THE ARABS. It was the 94th meeting of the two clubs in 82 years.
I was looking around for an old friend, former local FIFA referee Bob Valentine. I first saw him in 1982 at the FIFA World Cup match at El Molinan, Gijon, Spain THE SHAME OF GIJON. I was in the press box and he was the referee. West Germany conspired with Austria. A German win by 1 or 2 goals would take both teams through to the next round. They scored after 10 minutes and then 80 minutes of farce. Algeria had beaten West Germany earlier. From 1986 and later all third matches in the first round kick off at the same time. Unfortunately i didnt get to meet Bob this time.
Hibernian lead the table by 9 points from Falkirk in second and United fourth.