Alan Pattullo: Thirty years ago today saw Jim McLean at his irascible best after rare live TV encounter

Thirty years ago today Dundee United hosted Dundee in a Scottish Cup quarter-final. It was not an altogether unusual event – after all, it was the fifth season in a row that the teams had been drawn against each other.
Dundee Utd manager Jim McLean issues instructions against Rangers in 1987Dundee Utd manager Jim McLean issues instructions against Rangers in 1987
Dundee Utd manager Jim McLean issues instructions against Rangers in 1987

Still, it caught the eye of the broadcasters. The tie was selected for live satellite coverage by BSkyB’s The Sports Channel and brought forward to midweek.

Jim McLean, the Dundee United manager, grumbled about 1500 unsold tickets for the main stand as he prophesied the negative impact live satellite TV would have on football. The tie was among the first to be shown live via this medium in Scotland.

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It is hard to convey the interest – and controversy – this decision generated when it’s a rare night if there’s no live British football on TV. “It’s England’s turn to enjoy some Scottish hospitality,” announced anchor Richard Keys.

“Welcome to the most unusual street in football,” added Andy Gray, back at the ground where he started his career. The camera panned over Dens Park and then Tannadice, which, Keys somewhat unnecessarily adds, lies “little more than a goal-kick away”.

Dundee United came from behind to win 3-1 against their neighbours with 20-year-old Duncan Ferguson scoring with a towering header (at one point commentator Jock Brown notes that the striker “has a good temperament for the game”).

McLean was still not happy. “It was not my type of football,” he complained afterwards. “If there had been any aeroplanes around they would have needed to ground them.”

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