The artist wife of Dundee FC legend Julian Speroni has brought Dens Park to life with her paint brush.
Marina Speroni has drawn comparisons for her work with matchstick master LS Lowry who was famous for his urban landscapes peopled with human figures.
Marina said painting the images of Dens Park brought back great memories of the special time the couple spent in Dundee between 2001 and 2004.
Julian and Marina fell in love with Dundee
Marina has been taken aback by the response to her football paintings which have even received praise from fans of city rivals Dundee United.
“Well, we both grew up together here in the UK,” she said.
“When we arrived in Scotland, Julian was 22 and I was 21.
“Even though it was hard in the beginning, we fell in love with the people and their culture.
“Julian had such a great time and was enjoying his football so much.
“A very similar thing happened when we moved to England.
“It was a tough time to begin with but then plenty of unforgettable moments.”
Speroni moved from Buenos Aires club Platense to Dens Park in 2001 after just two appearances for his hometown club.
Dundee manager Ivano Bonetti decided to bring the Argentina under-20 international across the Atlantic Ocean after watching VHS tapes of him in action.
He did not speak a word of English when he signed for Dundee and he and his childhood sweetheart Marina went to college to pick up the basics.
Speroni quickly established himself as first-choice goalkeeper and was part of the team who got to the Scottish Cup Final in 2003 and played in the UEFA Cup.
Julian moved to Crystal Palace in 2004
He moved to join Crystal Palace for £750,000 in 2004 and kept a club record 112 clean sheets during a 15-year spell which made him a south London legend.
Speroni won Palace’s Player of the Year award a record four times before he announced his retirement on the final day of the 2018-19 season.
“I remember doing my first sketch of Selhurst Park, which is ‘Winter at Selhurst’ and I loved it,” said Marina.
“I really enjoyed it so I thought that it could be a good idea to paint the clubs where Julian played for and also to paint unforgettable moments for the fans.
“The public reaction was great.
“The love and appreciation I’ve received by everyone was amazing.
“And what a surprise it was to receive messages from Dundee United fans saying that they loved the picture of Dens Park!
“I have also been contacted by Tottenham, West Ham and Chelsea fans, and even Barcelona and Sevilla supporters asked me if I was planning to paint other grounds.”
Marina started painting from a young age but stopped during her teenage years.
She returned to painting thanks to encouragement from her husband when he saw her casually sketching him when he was relaxing in front of the TV one evening.
Marina was a former sports journalist
“From a very early age, I taught myself different art mediums, compositions and techniques, and took part in art competitions and several exhibitions, but I started to paint professionally a couple of years ago,” she said.
“Back home, in Argentina, I was working as a sport journalist but when we moved to the UK, my English wasn’t up to the standards, so I decided to resume painting.
“I don’t have a favourite style, my art work is very versatile, it ranges from white papery birch trees and abstract portraits to cosmopolitan landscapes.
“I do love the chiaroscuro technique and to make emphasis on buildings and dark gloomy atmospheres.
“Lately I have been painting lots of football pictures and to be honest I really enjoyed it because it brought me some great memories back.
“At the end of the day, that’s what I look for when I paint a road or people holding hands going to a match.
“The process can take from a week to a couple of months depending of the size of the canvas and media – but usually my kids decide how long it takes!”
Marina said they still have an abiding love for Dundee FC and the city.
She said her husband’s testimonial match at Selhurst Park in 2015 was a special memory when 2,000 Dundee fans descended on south London.
Rangers, Celtic and Boca Juniors had all been mentioned but there was only one choice for the Argentine shot-stopper when it came to selecting the opposition.
Crystal Palace won 4-3 and ex-Dens stars Giorgi Nemsadze, Fabian Caballero, Juan Sara, Beto Carranza and Temuri Ketsbaia returned to play for Dundee.
Marina said: “I have many happy memories of life in the UK, but if I have to refer to a football memory, I think Julian’s testimonial match is the one.
“Both teams and supporters together was just perfect!
“And also meeting again so many friends and ex-teammates coming from places like Argentina, Paraguay, Georgia and Finland…that says it all!
“I will never forget that day.”
Speroni is currently taking his coaching badges
The Speroni family have remained in the UK since his retirement.
“Our three children are British and hopefully I will become one in the next couple of months,” said Marina.
“What are we both up to?
“Well, I keep painting and Julian is doing his coaching badges and enjoying some time off.”
People can view Marina’s work and purchase them online at www.marinasperoni.com
Testimonial match at Selhurst Park was a special moment for Speroni
Almost 2,000 Dark Blues punters making the 1,000 mile round trip to Selhurst Park was a special moment for the man who spent three years at Dens.
“It was one of the most special moments of my career,” he said.
“I could not have dreamed it would be so good.
“The Dundee fans are incredible — there is no doubt about that.
“Their passion for the game is out of this world.
“I mean who chooses to drive hundreds of miles just for a match at the end of the season?
“I was shocked to see so many come to see me again.
“I can’t thank them enough for how special they made my night and also the support they have given me in my career.
“I felt like I was back 10 years.
“It was amazing.
“The players who were at Dundee were my friends.
“Seeing them in the dark blue again was an emotional moment.”