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Were you one of the Dundee United fans who went to Gothenburg in 1987?

The United fans were a credit to their club and to Scottish football.
The United fans were a credit to their club and to Scottish football.

These rare snapshots capture the Dundee United fans who painted Gothenburg Tangerine before the 1987 Uefa Cup final.

Having beaten the mighty Barcelona, Gary Lineker and all, and the German cracks Borussia Mönchengladbach on the way to the final, the Tangerine army expected their side to become the first Scottish team to lift the cup.

IFK Gothenburg lay in wait over two legs.

The first game took place in Sweden on March 6 1987.

Courier competition winners Graeme Bowman and Alastair Roy won a trip to Gothenburg for the first leg.

In our spotlight on the city back then, we described it as “Sweden’s capital of sport” which was kinder than some of the things they wrote about Dundee!

Travel agents were besieged by United supporters desperate to make the trip despite Gothenburg being described as “too dear, even for the Swedes”.

United had already established a European pedigree in the early 1980s and the mastermind was, of course, legendary manager Jim McLean.

The remarkable thing is, you can argue that wasn’t McLean’s greatest achievement during his 22 years as boss of United, whom he joined in 1971 from neighbours Dundee, where the former Dark Blues player had been first-team coach.

Dundee United fans pictured in Lindsay Street before setting off by bus for Gothenburg.

There were plenty of other candidates including getting to the semi-final of the European Cup in 1984 before losing in contentious circumstances.

McLean had secured his place in Scottish football folklore by 1987 when around 3,000 United supporters went to Gothenburg by land, sea and air.

Dundee’s own warship HMS Helmsdale even travelled to Sweden!

On board was a crew of 44 from the Tay Division Royal Naval Reserve at HMS Camperdown whose commanding officer was a United supporter.

Dundee United fans in the Dundee United Social Club before leaving for Gothenburg.

The River Class minesweeper left Peterhead for Gothenburg to complete “several days of training” as well as seeing the team in action on the big night.

The ship’s crew had a direct connection with United because one of the three Royal Marine reservists on board was the son of club secretary Ann Diamond.

A United flag flew from the ship’s mast and the only disappointed crew members were the five-man watch which had to stay aboard during the 90 minutes.

Their names were drawn by lots!

HMS Helmsdale, Unicorn, HMS Blackwater, HMS Archer and HMS Chaser at Dundee harbour.

The United fans filled the city centre with colour and song and proceeded to show the Swedes how to enjoy themselves.

Some admitted to having taken out bank loans of over £500 to finance the trip.

Others, who could only afford the trip plus a few decent meals, were willing to stay 50km out of town and drink water for two days to see their heroes in action.

One young lad, who had been unemployed for two years, arrived in the Scandinavian port with £12.50 in his pocket – enough for two burgers and a bus to the game.

James Stewart and Alan Boath are presented with Gothenburg medals at Tannadice Park following their heroics.

United fans James Stewart and Alan Boath were heroes off the park when they stopped a man robbing the American Express Centre in Gothenburg.

They grabbed the culprit and held him until the police arrived!

Sadly United failed to stop Stefan Pettersson whose first-half strike separated the sides after the first leg in front of 50,000 noisy Swedes.

More than 21,000 supporters jammed into Tannadice for the return leg.

A group of Dundee United fans in Gothenburg.

However, hopes were dashed by a sickening away goal barely 22 minutes into the match from Lennart Nilsson.

John Clark levelled on the hour mark but, despite a flurry of chances, the Tangerines just couldn’t score the two goals needed for victory.

Although United lost the final, the club and its supporters earned the admiration and respect of the worldwide football community.

In particular, the fans’ behaviour, sportingly applauding the Swedes as they lifted the trophy, earned United the Uefa Fair Play Award.

The prize money was spent on ground improvements — providing a roof to the old enclosure on the south-west side of the ground, fittingly where the Gothenburg supporters had celebrated their victory.

Dundee United fans making themselves heard in the stadium.

Former United striker Kevin Gallacher said: “Over the years I have been asked by people in England to list the highlights of my career and you can see them raise an eyebrow when I talk about those times with United.

“I actually think some of them have not believed me.

“In England, they do tend to think that Celtic and Rangers are the only teams to have done anything in Scottish football. Aberdeen got noticed when they won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983 under Sir Alex Ferguson, but it is really the Old Firm that are talked about.

“So when I mention scoring the winning goal against a Barcelona team that included Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes as well as all the other superstars they struggle to accept it.

“Then when I go on to say that United came close to winning the Uefa Cup on our own park against Gothenburg in 1987, you can see the doubt.”

Can you spot anyone you know in the United end?

He added: “But back then we knew we could take on all these star names because we were good players ourselves and had a tremendous European record behind us.

“Importantly, we were well coached and well prepared by our manager Jim McLean and the backroom men.

“So when we walked out to face all those well-known faces we had faith in our ability to win the match.

“You do wonder if a club United’s size could ever do anything like that again.”

Dundee United players in Gothenburg before the first leg got under way.

United’s historic glory run saw them play 70 games during 1986-87, compete in five tournaments, and reach three finals.

The UEFA Cup, Scottish Cup, League Cup and championship all eluded United, leaving just the Forfarshire Cup as the only silverware after a 5-0 win against Montrose.

The United fans were a credit to their club during both legs.

Many felt the display of the fans hastened the return to Euro competitions for English teams who were banned following the Heysel disaster when 39 people lost their lives at the European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus.

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