Thursday, 13 August 2015

Between the desert and the dark blue sea : restricted views in Dundee

The one and only time I’ve been to Tannadice was in 1954 when the primary 5, 6 and 7 classes of Liff  Road School were taken to the combined Dundee Primary Schools Sports Day to watch the athletics.  I imagine the best athletes from our school were taking part but I don’t recall being told about them. It seems to me now that in those days we just arrived at places we were taken to with no explanation of why we were there. It is possible we may have been told about what it all meant but it’s certainly not something I can recall.

What I do recall on arriving there was noticing that unlike Dens Park, Tannadice didn’t have a grandstand. It had a ramshackle pavilion on the southeast corner of the ground. I was distinctly underwhelmed by the scene and quite understood why Dundee United (who at that time played in shirts with broad black and white horizontal bands) were only in the ‘B’ division while Dundee were in the ‘A’ division.

Well things change and both clubs - though no one could have guessed it then - had famously glorious eras ahead of them. They now have them behind them. 

In 1954 it was little wonder to me that Dundee FC, with its pitch long grandstand and, what seemed to me as a 9 years old boy, huge terraces on the other three sides of the park, was indisputably the city’s elite football club. Having a much grander stadium than the team down the road was overwhelming evidence of this. In 1953 I had been at Dens Park with my Dad and Grandad when there were 43,000 spectators in the ground for a Rangers match and it gave me a great deal of satisfaction that the record crowd at Tannadice was at that time only 26,407.

Moving on, this past New Year of 2015,  over 60 years after my first visit to Tannadice, I decided that with Dundee back in the Scottish Premier League I would take my wife to see the festive time local derby at the desert a few yards down from Sandeman Street. Now I say I had decided to take my wife as if this would be a rare treat for her. It wasn’t. She hails from slightly warmer climes in the south of England, and sitting outside on a damp, dreich Dundee afternoon on January 1st does not immediately come to her mind as being a special treat, but on occasions like this when my childlike enthusiasm bursts through her tolerance emerges and she humours me.

With the decision made to go to Tannadice I ‘phoned the good folk at the ticket office at Dens Park who are allocated a certain amount of tickets for Dundee fans from Dundee United for the matches at Tannadice.

"Hello, ticket office,"  says a deep, gruff, Dundee voice.

"I wanted to go to the United match, and wondered if you’d got any tickets left."

"Eh, we've a few left."

"Well can I have two then please ?"

"Eh, well, ye can, but they’re 'restricted view.' "

"How d'you mean 'restricted view ?' "

"Eh dinnae ken. Eh dinnae work doon there. Eh work at Dens.”

"So what do I do? Should I phone them up to find out what 'restricted view' means? "

"Ye can if ye like."


A few minutes later I am listening to a recorded message from a posh, slightly Irish sounding male voice. "Hello there! And a very warm welcome to Tannadice, the home of Dundee United. If you would like our Commercial Department please press one, if you’d like our Ticket Department please press two, if you’d like our…."

I pushed the two on my ‘phone screen.

"Hello, this is the Dundee United Ticket Office. I’m Alison and how can I help you today?"

“Well maybe you won’t want to help me because I support the other side, but I was speaking with our ticket office this morning and they said they still had a few tickets for the match on New Year’s Day but they said they were 'restricted view'. The man didn’t seem to know what that meant so I’ve phoned you up to find out what ‘restricted view’ means before I purchase my tickets."

"Oh! That’s really a bit naughty. We’ve told your people they shouldn’t really try to sell those tickets."

 "So what does ‘restricted view’ mean ? "

"Basically it means you can’t see the pitch."

My wife and I watched the match in the Artisan pub at Abbeyhill in Edinburgh. The landlord grudgingly agreed to put the match on the smallest of his 4 TV screens. He really wanted all the screens to show an English Premier League match.

By half-time the writing of an unhappy tale was already well on the wall and at the shrill full-time whistle, even with cricked necks aching from staring at a tiny TV screen situated high up in a corner of the pub, we were still glad we hadn’t gone to Tannadice to 'listen' - from our ‘restricted view’ position -  to a humiliating 6-2 defeat.

Restricted view for Dundee fans at Tannadice

Still we had more than consolation four months later while sitting in the old main grandstand at a packed Dens Park  - which is a lovable dump of an old stadium -  to watch the Famous XI gain its first triumph over United for 10 years. A wonderful occasion not at all marred by a thinnish stanchion which restricted just some of our view.

'Restricted view' Dundee FC style : example of a Dens Park stanchion

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