Memories of Dundee v Rangers at Tannadice flood back: Dens Park club explore Motherwell options amid rain threat as Celtic step in to help

The spotlight is on the Dens Park pitch – again – with more heavy rain forecast

Dundee have been forced to explore alternative options with the weather forecast to worsen before Saturday’s home league fixture against Motherwell.

But the Dens Park club remain confident the game will be played when and where it was scheduled to take place after taking delivery of pitch covers from Celtic. These covers, specifically to deal with rain, are due to be laid later today, with Dundee stressing they are doing “everything in its power” to ensure the Motherwell clash kicks-off at 3pm on Saturday at the venue where it is supposed to be.

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Celtic are not at home this weekend and so have stepped in with help. Brendan Rodgers’ side are at Ibrox on Sunday where they face Rangers in a match that could have a huge bearing on where the league title flag ends up. Rangers are then due at Dens Park on Wednesday for a rearranged league match.

Iain Anderson scores for Dundee in their 'home' fixture v Rangers at Tannadice in April 1999Iain Anderson scores for Dundee in their 'home' fixture v Rangers at Tannadice in April 1999
Iain Anderson scores for Dundee in their 'home' fixture v Rangers at Tannadice in April 1999

The Ibrox side are currently a point behind Celtic with the Dundee fixture in hand amid growing anxiety about the condition of the Dens Park pitch after more heavy rain. Although today has proved drier, heavy rain is forecast on Friday and Saturday morning. Dundee have been looking at contingency plans following discussions with the SPFL.

The Dens Park pitch has been a source of regular concern this season amid lack of investment as the club continues with plans to move to another stadium on the outskirts of the city. They have already fallen foul of the league authorities following four postponements, two of them within 90 minutes of kick-off, this season. The latest of these postponed matches, against Rangers last month, has still to take place and is scheduled to be broadcast live by Sky Sports next Wednesday.

The SPFL released a statement stressing the postponement was “particularly disappointing” given the game was live on television and “the proximity of the match to the split”. With the league split now even closer, there is no room for manoeuvre if either or both upcoming home Dundee matches are forced off.

Dundee have released a statement seeking to douse speculation that an alternative venue for the match against Motherwell is being considered. A larger than average crowd had been expected for Saturday’s game with Tony Docherty's side pushing for the top six and the visitors also not completely out of contention.

Dundee's last match against Rangers was called off at short notice.Dundee's last match against Rangers was called off at short notice.
Dundee's last match against Rangers was called off at short notice.

“The club have had a full grounds team along with consultants working on the pitch since the postponement of the Rangers match along with all the associated machinery and this will continue right up until Saturday,” read the Dundee statement. “Rain covers will then be put down covering the whole pitch. The club are doing absolutely everything in its power to get Saturday’s match on and …(expect) Saturday’s match to go ahead as planned.”

Possible alternative venues include an obvious one little over 200 yards across the street. Dundee United are scheduled to be away this weekend against Queen’s Park at Hampden in the Championship. Other possibilities are St Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park in Perth and Arbroath’s Gayfield, with both teams also due to be away on Saturday. Another option is putting the game back to Sunday in the hope the weather relents and the sodden pitch can dry out. However, Dundee are intent on playing the game on Saturday at Dens Park.

Adding intrigue is the side story of Dundee’s former groundstaff team. Brian Robertson and his son Brian junior were suspended – pending what was described as an “internal club investigation” – in January and later left the club after a lengthy period of service, in Brian Senior’s case stretching back to the 1990s.

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The pitch maintenance is currently contracted out to a firm of turf specialists based near Glasgow. They could not save the most recent game against Rangers, postponed by referee Don Robertson after he arrived at the ground for the scheduled midday kick-off. Work had been ongoing on the pitch since 5am.

Motherwell are due at Dens Park on Saturday - for now.Motherwell are due at Dens Park on Saturday - for now.
Motherwell are due at Dens Park on Saturday - for now.

Since moving to Dens Park in 1899 from Carolina Port, Dundee have only ever played one home league match away from their own stadium – against Rangers 100 years later in April 1999. Dick Advocaat’s visitors were closing in on the Scottish title. News the game had been switched to Tannadice arrived ten days before the fixture, with construction work having been hastily scheduled at both ends of Dens Park. Dundee were struggling to comply with the 31 July deadline imposed for the 10,000 seat rule, a top-tier requirement the SPL had inherited following its creation in 1998.

While Rangers might have been slightly disoriented, it was nothing compared to Dundee fans, who were invited to sit in tangerine-coloured seats for this “one-off match”. Dundee chairman Jimmy Marr implored Dundee fans to respect the surroundings and revealed the club had agreed to pay for any damage caused by ‘home’ or away fans. “The spirit of cooperation shown by Dundee United emphasises the positive relationship which has been built up over the past 18 months,” said Marr. “I would urge all Dundee fans to attend and accord Tannadice the same respect they would Dens Park.”

The match itself saw Rangers suffer another slip-up as they sought to tie-up the league title. Having once held a 13-point lead over Celtic, Advocaat’s side’s advantage crumbled to just three points before the unexpected return to Tannadice for a third time that season. “The uprooted home supporters looked more than a little edgy settling into their tangerine seats before the game,” wrote Tom Lappin in The Scotsman.

Dundee took the game to Rangers and took a first-half lead through a header from the smallest man on the pitch, Iain Anderson. Rangers recovered to an extent to claim a point with a second-half equaliser from Tony Vidmar, but more dropped points threatened to be costly with just five games remaining, including what proved a title decider against Celtic on 2 May. Rangers won 3-0 at Parkhead amid stormy scenes, including referee Hugh Dallas being hit by a coin. Dundee, meanwhile, ended up finishing fifth, their highest league position since winning the title in 1962, after winning four successive games after holding Rangers at Tannadice.



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