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Dundee United photos found in attic show amazing Uefa Cup final scenes at Tannadice

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These colour pictures document the incredible scenes at the second leg of the 1987 Uefa Cup final, which took place 35 years ago at Tannadice.

They were taken by Grant Millar and Stewart Alexander during the game.

The negatives then spent three decades tucked away in cardboard boxes in the attic.

Dick Young, Simon MacMillan, Grant Millar and Stanley Millar at Tannadice before the match.
Dick Young, Simon MacMillan, Grant Millar and Stanley Millar at Tannadice before the match.

They were digitised by Grant who said seeing them again brought back bittersweet memories of the night United’s Uefa Cup dream ended in glorious defeat.

The Tangerines had conquered Lens, Universitatea Craiova, Hajduk Split and European giants Barcelona and Borussia Mönchengladbach in earlier rounds to reach the final.

The stadium was a sell-out for the second leg, where United dared to dream.
The stadium was a sell-out for the second leg, where United dared to dream.

A near-capacity crowd of 20,911 filed into the ground as Jim McLean’s side attempted to overturn a 1-0 deficit suffered in Gothenburg in the final’s first leg against IFK.

A stiff wind from the Arklay Street end battered the noisiest Tannadice crowd of the season, the majority of which roared on their favourites in hope rather than expectation, faced by a world-class Swedish outfit with a goal head start.

United were also still recovering from the disappointment of having finished second best in the Scottish Cup final, against St Mirren at Hampden, just four days earlier.

The IFK Gothenburg fans made their voices heard at Tannadice on May 20 1987.
The IFK Gothenburg fans made their voices heard at Tannadice on May 20 1987.

In the end, it was not to be and although the team fought hard, after losing the first goal at Tannadice, it was simply too big an ask, though a John Clark goal did secure a draw on the night.

Hundreds of fans continued to occupy the middle of the Shed end of the ground at the final whistle, refusing to leave before McLean came to talk to them.

The same supporters then greeted the United players as heroes as they left the ground.

The players are pictured during the warm-up before the match started.
The players are pictured during the warm-up before the match started.

The rapturous ovation given by the thousands of home spectators to the victorious Swedes after the match earned United fans the fitting prize of the Uefa Fair Play Award, commemorated to this day by one of the Tannadice stands.

“The photos had been sitting in a box since late 1987 to late 2019 and I’ve been digitising them, which has been an on-off project,” said Grant.

This picture gives a sense of the huge home support there was for McLean's side in the second leg.
This picture gives a sense of the huge home support there was for McLean’s side in the second leg.

“It was a football Brigadoon – a special, one-off night and atmosphere.

“Yet, funnily, it’s the scenes after the match rather than the game itself which are my strongest memories.

“That said, I do remember Billy Kirkwood coming very close to scoring for United shortly after the kick-off with a Bergkamp-esque flick and turn!

The game finished 1-1 but United went down 2-1 on aggregate.
The game finished 1-1 but United went down 2-1 on aggregate.

“A friend had an air-horn with him and gave it a few blasts just before the match started and you always heard air-horns at European finals back then.

“The only thing lacking was a black and white ball!

The disappointed United players salute the home support at full-time.
The disappointed United players salute the home support at full-time.

“During that Uefa cup run, I remember the Shed regularly singing the Triumphal March from Aida.

“That was fabulous, so continental and dead sophisticated.

“And this was long before opera and football became a thing, following the 1990 World Cup and the Three Tenors.

“There were loads of interesting flags in the Shed too – the place was pure hoaching and jumping.

“The United fans were so generous to the victorious Gothenburg team, and their supporters.

“I thought it was extraordinary that opposition fans should instantly applaud and cheer the team that had just defeated them, especially as United had lost the Scottish Cup final only four days before.

The United players clapped the fans as they went up the tunnel following the defeat.
The United players clapped the fans as they went up the tunnel following the defeat.

“It was just a spontaneous outburst of Corinthian sporting behaviour – and an amazing thing to witness and be part of.

“I am not sure who started it or in which part of the ground it began, but it made the night magical.

“Looking back, I think how, and why, did that thing happen?

The United fans were going nowhere and stayed to applaud the victorious Swedes.
The United fans were going nowhere and stayed to applaud the victorious Swedes.

“But I think there was more than just great sportsmanship going on that night.

“I think the United fans sensed that the match was the swan-song of the brilliant United side of the ’70s and ’80s, and wanted to show their respect and admiration for the players who had created so many wonderful memories.”

European results which, were they to happen now, would scarcely be believed.

The players did the club proud during the 1986/87 season.
The players did the club proud during the 1986/87 season.

French aristocrats Monaco were seen off 5-2 in Monte Carlo; German aces Borussia Mönchengladbach were thumped 5-0 at Tannadice to overcome a 2-0 first-leg deficit; there was a thrilling 2-2 draw at Old Trafford against a star-studded Manchester United team; Belgian champions Standard Liege were hammered 4-0; when United outplayed Italian champions Roma at home in the European Cup semi-final, winning 2-0 before losing the return 3-0 in contentious circumstances; and that run to the Uefa Cup final that included the Barca victories home and away.

Grant recalls the “respect and warmth for the manager” at Tannadice.

The fans demanded that managerial genius Jim McLean came out and took a bow.
The fans demanded that managerial genius Jim McLean came out and took a bow.

He said: “The fans in the Shed stayed behind and chanted: ‘We want Jim!’; and they didn’t leave until Jim McLean came out to accept their applause and cheers.

“After that, it was off to the pubs to make good use of the specially extended licensing hours.

“In the Tangerine-bedecked pubs of Dundee’s Brigadoon-Arabia, I seem to hazily recall a video tape of the match ending with Arthur Montford asking Hamish McAlpine to summarise the events of this historic night for viewers: ‘Och, I’m off to Broughty Ferry!’, says Hamish.”

An empty Tannadice following the drama of the evening in this fantastic image.
An empty Tannadice following the drama of the evening in this fantastic image.

Working as a content writer in the digitisation team at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in the early 2000s showed Grant the potential of digitisation.

The experience of working in digitisation teams in the years that followed inspired him to learn more about digitisation processes.

It started with scanning old photos, moving on to transferring 35mm slides and photo negatives, before digitising VHS, camcorder cassettes and audio tapes.

After that, he learned how to digitise 8mm cine films, and, in 2021, he decided to make a living from his love of digitisation and it is now his business.

More like this:

Never-before-seen photos of Dundee United fans in Gothenburg in 1987

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