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It was a dream that many believed would be impossible: Dundee United FC reaching the final of the UEFA Cup.
Now, on the 30th anniversary of that remarkable European adventure, BBC ALBA presents Tannadice 87, examining a season in which dreams became reality, and Dundee, a city with a reputation for jam, jute and journalism, added a fourth ‘j’ to its trademark: jubilation.
Produced by the award-winning purpleTV – and narrated by respected broadcaster Alex O’Henley - Tannadice 87 is the latest in a series of sports documentaries on BBC ALBA which has included Jock Stein, Jim Baxter, Tartan Pride and Gothenburg 83 amongst others.
In season 1986/87, Dundee United took to the European stage with some aplomb, conquering giants Barcelona and Borussia Mönchengladbach amongst others en-route to a two-legged UEFA Cup final against IFK Gothenburg. The final, played at the Ulevi Stadium and Tannadice, was watched by a television audience of 70 million viewers.
With Jim McLean at the helm, one of three legendary footballing brothers from Larkhall near Glasgow, United rose from mediocrity to monumental status when, for a sustained period in the 1980s, they constituted greatness. Scottish league champions in 1983, despite the dominance of Sir Alex Ferguson’s European Cup Winners’ Cup victors Aberdeen, McLean’s United reached the semi-final of the European Cup in 1984 and pushed on to a European final just three years later.
Tannadice 87 tells the remarkable story of that adventure, a journey that ultimately ended in defeat but resulted in a win for Scotland when FIFA created their Fair Play Award in respect of the Dundee United fans’ admirable sporting behaviour.
The film draws on the personal testimony of key members of the squad: Paul Sturrock, Paul Hegarty, Kevin Gallacher, Jim McInally, Dave Bowman, John Holt, Billy Thomson and John Clark, as well as Jim McLean’s coach and assistant Gordon Wallace. The story also features archive testimony from Ian Redford and Jim McLean. Former Dundee United director Justine Mitchell provides a fan perspective, mapping the journey to places like Barcelona and Gothenburg, with broadcaster and Dundee United fan Jim Spence also contributing.
Featuring incredible domestic and archive footage, drawn from the success of the 1983 league title win through to the UEFA Cup final of 1987, the film’s moving action is enhanced with uniquely personal cine film and photographic archive, captured by fans who followed the team’s incredible journey that season.
Tannadice 87 is a popular culture film, showcasing a snapshot of one of the most emotionally dynamic periods in the city of Dundee’s history.
Produced and directed by Margot McCuaig for purpleTV, Tannadice 87 will be broadcast on BBC ALBA on Saturday 20 May from 9.00 until 10.00pm. It will also be repeated on Sunday 21 May at 10.55pm, and will be available to view on BBC iPlayer.