Dundee United’s class of 1983 etched their names into the history books when they won the Premier League title.
Jim McLean’s side became legends when it all came down to that final day at Dens Park against city rivals Dundee on May 14.
United went to a packed Dens Park knowing only a win would guarantee them the title in a close-fought race with Celtic and Aberdeen.
Goals from Ralph Milne and Eamonn Bannon sent the United fans wild but Dundee pulled one back to ensure a tense wait throughout the second half before the team and the fans could celebrate their triumph.
Ronnie got his first signatures on his shirt in 2003
Ronnie Taylor, 64, was in the crowd to watch his heroes crowned champions.
Ronnie said: “I was there in 1983 and I’ll never forget that day at Dens.
“I have been following United since I was 10 or 11 but the 1982-83 side was just a class above and they played some brilliant football during that season.
“It was a team of legends and my favourite players were Sturrock, Bannon and Narey, although we all loved Hamish McAlpine because he was such a character!”
Ronnie was also in attendance when some of the championship-winning side and their boss Jim McLean gathered for a commemoration 20 years later.
Ronnie was wearing his 2002-03 United shirt and McLean and Ralph Milne were among eight legends who signed it at the Rendezvous.
He put the shirt back in the cupboard and thought nothing more about it until a few years ago when he decided to finish the job and fill in the blanks.
Ronnie’s unique challenge took him far and wide to get all the names of the players who were in the squad on the final day of the season back in 1983.
“I was a barman in the Glass Bucket in Dundee where some of the players would go for a drink in the late-70s and early-80s so I knew a lot of them,” said Ronnie.
“I will always remember that night at the Rendezvous but when I got home I hung the signed shirt up in the cupboard and really forgot all about it.
“The shirt was gathering dust but just over a year ago I stumbled upon it and wondered if I would ever be able to complete it and gather all of the signatures.
“So it became something of a quest – could I get all the signatures of the team which won the league at Dens on the final day of the season back in 1983?”
Ronnie said age was one reason why he wanted to complete the challenge.
“We’re all getting older and Ralph Milne and Jim McLean have already passed so that made me more determined to finish the job before it was too late,” he said.
“The shirt has never been washed since that night at the Rendezvous 18 years ago because I didn’t want to risk the signatures being washed off!”
Ronnie started to gather some of the remaining names.
He would attend club events or functions but then the pandemic hit which brought its own challenges in his race to complete his challenge.
A special delivery from former winger Eamonn Bannon
Thankfully former wing king Eammon Bannon produced a special delivery when lockdown made it impossible for Ronnie to go to see him in Edinburgh.
“Eammon runs a guest house in Edinburgh,” said Ronnie.
“I got his number and phoned him up and he suggested I post the shirt to him.
“He signed it and sent it back to me.
“The most difficult player to track down was Derek Stark.”
Stark was a schoolboy international who joined United in 1975 and was a regular for six years after establishing himself in the first team in 1978-79.
The tough tackling defender was a vital member of the side that won the Premier League and missed only four of the 36 matches.
He retired from the game through injury in September 1985 at the age of 26 and became a police officer with Fife Constabulary.
Tracking down the signature of Derek Stark
“Nobody knew where Derek was and he was proving elusive,” said Ronnie.
“So I put a message up on a United fan site asking if anyone knew where I could contact him and was eventually contacted by his brother-in-law.
“He told me to come over to Glenrothes and he would get it signed for me.
“I waited outside while he took it up to his house and that was the final signature.”
Ronnie started to get offers of £300-400 for the signed shirt when word started to spread but said he would never dream of selling it.
He was going to get it framed and hang it up in his bedroom before he spoke to Davie Mack at Club 83 in St Salvador Street.
Davie suggested it would look even better on the wall in the club where Dundee United supporters will be able to enjoy it for generations to come.
So that’s exactly what has happened.
“We’re delighted Ronnie has decided to donate the shirt to the club where it will take pride of place on our wall,” said Davie.
Jim McLean believed United had the side to win the league in 1982-83
As season 1982-83 dawned, manager Jim McLean said: “There is no doubt that Dundee United are equipped to win the Premier League title.
“They have the quality, they have the pool of players now and they only have to lose the wee bit of inconsistency that shows now and again.”
And they did because, as the closest campaign in years came to its climax, United were in pole position, a point ahead of both Celtic and Aberdeen.
Remember, just two points for a win back then.
In other words, a win for the Tangerines and they would be champions.
Dundee: Kelly; Glennie (Mackie 66), McKimmie, Fraser, Smith, Ferguson, McDonald, McGeachie, Sinclair, Stephen, Kidd.
Dundee United: McAlpine; Malpas, Narey, Hegarty, Stark, Gough, Kirkwood, Milne, Bannon, Dodds, Sturrock (Holt 61).
Nerves among the massed Arabs ranks in the near-30,000 crowd were eased by their favourites’ two-goal opening salvo.
Ralph Milne, as he did so often that season, conjured up a magical fourth-minute opener with a sublime lob that sailed over keeper Colin Kelly’s head into the net.
The second followed a penalty award seven minutes later when Dave Narey was brought down.
Though Kelly saved Eamonn Bannon’s spot-kick, the winger followed up to net the rebound.
United should have scored a third on 27 minutes when Davie Dodds flicked the ball off the underside of the bar but it stayed out.
Straight away, Dundee broke right up the other end and Iain Ferguson lashed the ball past Hamish McAlpine from around 18 yards out.
That changed the whole complexion of proceedings and prompted endemic nail-biting among those of a Tangerine persuasion until the final whistle eventually confirmed United as champions.
That signalled universal joy as a sea of tangerine celebrated the greatest moment in the club’s history, becoming only the 12th club to collect the top title in Scotland.