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From Aljofree to Zwick: The Dundee United connections to EVERY nation at Euro 2024

Courier Sport runs down players and managers from each country to have links to Tannadice.

Luis Zwick, Dragutin Ristic, Rudi Skacel, Alen Ploj and Florent Sinama Pongolle (L to R) during their spells at Dundee United
Luis Zwick, Dragutin Ristic, Rudi Skacel, Alen Ploj and Florent Sinama Pongolle (L to R) during their spells at Dundee United. Images: SNS / DC Thomson

Anticipation is at fever pitch as Scotland prepare to kick off the European Championships against hosts Germany on Friday night.

While not represented by any current Dundee United players, a former Tannadice favourite, Andrew Robertson, will lead out Steve Clarke’s boys in Munich.

And that is the tip of the iceberg.

From Albania to Ukraine; the successes, the cult heroes and the flops – Courier Sport spotlights the Tangerine connections to every country at the European Championships.

The Scotland camp, led by ex-United ace Andrew Robertson, ahead of the Euros kicking off
The Scotland camp, led by ex-United ace Andrew Robertson, ahead of the Euros kicking off. Image: Shutterstock.

Albania: Andis Shala (2008-2011; 38 apps, 3 goals)

Although he grew up in Germany, Shala was born in the city of Dakovica (part of Yugoslavia at the time) and came from Kosovar-Albanian lineage.

The towering striker was on Albania’s radar in 2009, with national team boss Josip Kuza telling the Courier: “I have heard about Andis Shala and we are going to watch him. If he does well, we’ll bring him into the squad.”

Andis Shala (right) rushes off to celebrate giving Dundee Utd the lead against Rangers. Image: DC Thomson

However, Shala’s rather underwhelming time at Tannadice did not earn him any senior international recognition.

Austria: Christoph Rabitsch (2017-2018; 17 apps, 0 goals)

I don’t do magic things,” Rabitsch told The Courier upon his arrival at Tannadice seven summers ago, underlining that his game was all about hard work and tough tackling.

The former Wolfsberger AC midfielder certainly struggled to bewitch the Tannadice faithful as Csaba Laszlo failed to guide United out of the Championship.

Christoph Rabitsch, left, in action for the Tangerines
Rabitsch, left, in action for the Tangerines. Image: SNS

He departed after just one year in Scotland.

Belgium: Frederic Frans (2018-2019; 25 apps, 2 goals)

A firm fans’ favourite at Partick Thistle and fondly remembered for his thunderbolt from distance against Ross County, Frans arrived in Tayside in the summer of 2018 as Laszlo sought to build a side capable of finally returning to the top-flight.

Although never found wanting for effort, he slipped behind Mark Reynolds and Mark Connolly in the United pecking order following the appointment of Robbie Neilson and left the club after one campaign.

Frederic Frans claims for a high boot during a Dundee United fixture
Frans claims for a high boot during a Dundee United fixture. Image: SNS

Now manager of Sporting Hasselt in his homeland, Frans was an unused substitute in the Tangerines’ galling playoff final defeat to St Mirren on penalties.

Croatia: Dragutin Ristic (1994-1995; 16 apps, 3 goals)

Although part of Yugoslavia at the time, Ristic was born in the beautiful port town of Pula – now one of the jewels of Croatia’s tourist industry.

His finest moments in Tayside largely came in the dark blue of Dundee, with the gifted forward remembered for a screamer against Hearts and a derby day strike against United to rescue a point in 1994.

A mustachioed Dragutin Ristic bursts forward for Dundee United
The mustachioed Ristic bursts forward. Image: SNS

After crossing the city divide to play for Ivan Golac, Ristic only rippled the net three times on the way to relegation in 1994/95.

Czech Republic: Rudi Skacel (2012-2013; 16 apps, 1 goal)

The talented former Marseille man was revered at Hearts, racking up 48 goals in two spells and winning the Scottish Cup TWICE with the Jambos.

Much like his brief time at Raith Rovers, Skacel did little to add to that Scottish football legacy while at Tannadice.

It is a stint best remembered for his decision to choose the No.51 jersey – seemingly a pop at Hearts’ fierce rivals Hibs after the Jambos hammered them by that scoreline at Hampden five months prior.

Boss Peter Houston later apologised for allowing it.

Skacel’s only goal for the club came in a 4-4 draw against Inverness and his short-term deal was not extended in January 2013.

Denmark: Finn Dossing (1964-1968; 115 apps, 76 goals)

Dundee United legend Finn Dossing.
Dundee United legend Finn Dossing. Image: DC Thomson

Signed by Jerry Kerr following a dazzling trial match in 1964, Dossing was immediately snapped up and soon cemented himself as one of the most natural, clinical strikers to ever wear United colours.

His goals during the 1965/66 campaign helped the Terrors secure European competition for the first time in their history.

Along with the talents of Orjan Persson, Lennart Wing, Mogens Berg and Finn Seemann, it was a Scandinavian invasion that arguably laid the foundations for the successes to come in the 1980s.

Dossing was inducted into the United hall of fame in 2008 and passed away in 2022, aged 81.

England: Hasney Aljofree (2000-2002; 66 apps, 7 goals)

Callum Butcher, Ryan Edwards and Albert Juliussen are the only Englishmen to make more appearances for United than Aljofree.

A Manchester United academy graduate, Aljofree was signed by Paul Sturrock and part of a side locked in a relegation battle during his first season with the club, scraping to 11th.

He notched an impressive five goals in his second campaign as United secured a more respectable eighth-placed finish.

Hasney Aljofree gets stuck into Celtic's Neil Lennon
Aljofree gets stuck into Celtic’s Neil Lennon. Image SNS

Aljofree’s son, Sonny, is now on the books of Manchester United’s youth side, while Hasney has recently taken up a role as Head of Coach Development and Education for the Singaporean FA.

France: Florent Sinama Pongolle (2015-2016; 4 apps, 0 goals)

One of the more peculiar footnotes in a lamentable season for the Tangerines, as Mixu Paatelainen rolled the dice on a player with a mightily impressive CV – but who only seemed to be going in one direction.

Along with Guy Demel, signings seemingly based on reputation rather than efficacy.

Sinama Pongolle, formerly of Liverpool, Sporting CP and Atletico Madrid – a France international, no less – played just four times for United as he summarily failed to “prove the doubters wrong”, as was his intention.

Florent Sinama Pongolle in Dundee United colours
Florent Sinama Pongolle in United colours. Image: SNS

Upon leaving United, he rattled in the goals for Chainat Hornbill in Thailand before turning out for Saint-Pierroise on the island of Reunion.

Georgia: Georgi Nemsadze (Dundee playmaker)

Not a Dundee United player.

Anything but.

However, in lieu of the Tangerines having ever employed a Georgian or crossed swords with a club from that region, we’ll alight on a player who did illuminate Tannadice. Admittedly, Nemsadze did that to the delight of the Dundee faithful.

His sumptuous, chipped finish in a derby triumph over United in 2000 – one of five goals for the club – remains fondly remembered to this day, leaving Alan Combe floundering.

With Temuri Ketsbaia and current Georgia No.2 Zurab Khizanishvili also starring for the Dark Blues, they may find some support from one side of the street in Dundee.

Germany: Luis Zwick (2014-2017; 23 apps)

Oddly, the second man on this list to wear No.51 – albeit rather less contentiously than Skacel.

Luis Zwick cuts a frustrated figure
Zwick cuts a frustrated figure. Image: SNS

Initially joining the club a youth prospect, Jackie McNamara entrusted Zwick with a starting spot for United in the Premiership during the opening months of the ill-fated 2015/16 campaign.

He went on to concede 27 goals in 13 games and dropped out of the side following a 5-0 defeat at Celtic Park in October. Michal Szromnik came into the side. Eiji Kawashima would later claim the gloves in a season of less-than-stellar goalkeeping.

Following United’s relegation in 2016, Zwick served as understudy to Cammy Bell for the remainder of his time at Tannadice.

Hungary & Romania: Csaba Laszlo, manager (45 games in charge, 18 wins)

Born in the Romanian town of Odorheiu Secuiesc, Laszlo also has Hungarian lineage and served as assistant head coach of their national team in 2004, as well as spells with Ferencvaros and MTK Budapest.

Csaba Laszlo makes his point during an underwhelming spell as Dundee United boss
Csaba Laszlo makes his point during an underwhelming spell as Dundee United boss. Image: SNS

At United, he succeeded Ray McKinnon in November 2017 with the Tangerines top of the Championship.

Formerly SFWA manager of the year with Hearts; seemingly a solid appointment.

But the Tangerines went on to finish in third spot and lost out to Livingston in the promotion playoffs.

Having been afforded the summer to build his own team, Laszlo paid the price for an poor start to the following season, with a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Ross Country proving the final straw.

Italy: Rolando Ugolini (1960-62; 52 appearances)

Born in the Tuscan town of Lucca in 1924, Ugolini moved to Scotland at the age of three, growing up in West Lothian.

Rolando Ugolini, back row and fourth from left, as part of the 1963 Dundee United squad
Ugolini, back row and fourth from left, as part of the 1963 United squad. Image: DC Thomson.

The former Hearts and Celtic goalkeeper was signed for United by Kerr following a fine period south of the border, making more than 400 appearances during combined spells with Middlesbrough and Wrexham.

Ugolini remained in Scotland after his retirement and passed away in Edinburgh in 2014, aged 89.

Netherlands: Guido van de Kamp (1991-1994; 64 apps)

Freddy van der Hoorn with 205 appearances; cult hero Sieb Dykstra – there is plenty of competition for this one.

However, van de Kamp’s place in United folklore is assured following his 1994 Scottish Cup winning heroics.

Not always in favour during his three years at Tannadice, the big Dutchman reclaimed a starting berth in time to play a huge part in the iconic success – the 30th anniversary of which was celebrated on May 21.

Van de Kamp’s instinctive save to deny Rangers’ Alexei Mikhailichenko and preserve the 1-0 victory is a major moment in United history.

Guido van de Kamp celebrates
Guido van de Kamp celebrates. Image: DC Thomson

It would prove to be the final game he played for the club.

Poland: Grzegorz Szamotulski (2007-2008; 21 apps)

“Szamo is barking mad . . . when he loses a goal he always curses and swears as if it’s almost the end of the world,” noted then-United boss Houston.

In the same interview, however, Houston stated that “the Mad Monk” was comparable with Craig Gordon and Antti Niemi. While his time at Tannadice was brief – brought in following injury to Lukasz Zaluska – it was that impressive.

Gregorz Szamotulski sees red at Tynecastle
Szamotulski sees red at Tynecastle. Image: SNS

Szamotulski, capped 13 times for Poland, joined Preston in February 2008 and would later turn out for Hibernian.

Portugal: Joaquim Ferraz (1999-00; 36 apps, 8 goals)

Although he struggled to nail down a starting berth, the 6ft5ins marksman packed plenty into his sole season with the Terrors.

Ferraz notched a late winner on his debut – a Dundee derby – as Paul Sturrock’s men defeated the Dark Blues 2-1 at Tannadice. Indeed, he scored in three of his first four games.

However, a 12-game barren run followed.

While Ferraz’s time at United started with derby glory, it ended ignominiously in the same fixture – as he was dismissed during a miserable 3-0 collapse at Dens.

Scotland: Andrew Robertson (2013-14; 44 apps, 5 goals)

United’s history is peppered with outrageous Scottish talents.

Narey; Malpas; Sturrock; Hegarty; Milne – take your pick.

Even if narrowing it down to those who featured in European Championships, there is plenty of pedigree there, with Malpas, Jim McInally, Dave Bowman and Duncan Ferguson all making the trip to Sweden for Euro 1992.

Andy Robertson in action for Dundee United
Andy Robertson in action for Dundee United. Image: SNS

However, with the opening game of Euro 2024 on the horizon, there is only one man to spotlight: Scotland captain Robertson.

A fresh-faced, fearless full-back upon his arrival from Queen’s Park in 2013, Robertson showed the pace, delivery and marauding attacking sense that would come to characterise an astonishingly successful career, scoring five times.

He helped United finish fourth in the Premiership and reach the Scottish Cup final – losing out to St Johnstone – in one season at Tannadice before joining Hull in a £3 million switch.

Since then, Liverpool hero Robertson has won the English Premier League, the FA Cup, the League Cup (twice), the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, World Club Cup and represented his country 71 times.

Serbia: Gordan Petric (1993-1995; 77 apps, 4 goals)

Gordan Petric, right, celebrates an imperious performance against Rangers in the 1994 Scottish Cup final
Petric, right, celebrates an imperious performance against Rangers in the 1994 Scottish Cup final. Image: SNS

Petric was already a serial winner by the time he arrived in Scotland – one league title and a Yugoslav Cup with Partizan – and would have gone to Euro 1992 with Yugoslavia if not for the country’s expulsion.

Aggressive and dominant, he became an immediate mainstay for United after being tempted to Tannadice by compatriot Golac. A fine maiden season would culminate with him shutting out Rangers and holding the Scottish Cup aloft.

Although the Tangerines crashed to relegation the following year, Petric’s displays remained consistent enough to earn a move the Gers, and he would later turn out for Crystal Palace, AEK Athens and Hearts before a poignant return to Partizan.

Slovakia: Dusan Pernis (2010-2012; 116 apps)

Arriving on a pre-contract in January 2010, Pernis enjoyed a magical first six months of his United career.

He swiftly established himself between the sticks and was part of the side that lifted the 2010 Scottish Cup with a 3-0 win over Ross County.

Weeks later, he was named in the Slovakia squad for the World Cup in South Africa.

Lukasz Zaluska with the 2010 Scottish Cup
Zaluska with the 2010 Scottish Cup. Image: SNS

Pernis remained a United regular for the entirety of his deal but left the club in the summer of 2012, with Radoslaw Cierzniak subsequently signing and making the place his own.

Slovenia: Alen Ploj (2016; trialist)

A former Slovenia U/21 international, United ran the rule over Ploj in the summer of 2016.

Despite the 23-year-old bagging a brace against Cove Rangers in a friendly, boss Ray McKinnon’s uncertainty shone through, stating: “I’m going to wait and see with him, I’m not sure yet he is what we need.”

As it transpired, he was not.

Ploj wasn’t offered a contract and United are yet to be represented in a competitive game by a Slovenian.

Spain: Fran Sandaza (2008-2010; 43 apps, 11 goals)

Unearthed by Craig Levein, Sandaza is a case of “what could have been”.

Craig Levein, right, brought Fran Sandaza to Scotland in 200
Craig Levein, right, brought Sandaza to Scotland in 2008. Image: SNS

Powerful, sharp and deadly in front of goal on his day, he started his Tannadice career with six goals in 14 games – coming against Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen and Hibs; he was a man with a knack for striking against the big guns.

However, persistent injuries plagued the classy attacker, particularly in his second season, and he was released in August 2010 before joining Brighton.

Sandaza would go on to showcase his ability when he returned to Scotland with St Johnstone in 2011/12 – the best season of his career, by his own admission – and earn a move to Rangers.

Switzerland: Benji Siegrist (145 apps)

The signing of Siegrist is perhaps Laszlo’s most important legacy from an unsuccessful stint as boss.

Arriving in the same close season as Slovakian keeper Matej Rakovan (the pair were initially pitched as equals, battling it out for one jersey) Siegrist soon made the No.1 spot his own, albeit he was not as dominating as he would later become.

He remained between the sticks as United won the Covid-curtailed Championship of 2019/20 and grew in stature in the Premiership. No goalkeeper made more saves than Siegrist in 2020/21 and he was named United’s player of the year.

Benji Siegrist was a wonderful stopper for Dundee United
Siegrist was a wonderful stopper for United. Image: SNS

Another inspired year for Siegrist helped the Tangerines qualify for Europe in 2021/22, while earning the big stopper a lucrative move to Celtic, for whom he has played two games.

Turkey: Nadir Ciftci (2013-2015; 82 apps, 33 goals)

Simply the consummate cult hero.

The premature celebration against Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final; the derby double against Dundee; the odd car crash – Ciftci was an unpredictable, unforgettable force of nature in Tangerine.

An iconic moment as Nadir Ciftci celebrates against Rangers before putting the ball in the net at Ibrox
An iconic moment as Nadir Ciftci celebrates against Rangers before putting the ball in the net at Ibrox. Image: SNS

He would finish both of his campaigns at Tannadice as the club’s top scorer, earning a £1.5 million move to Celtic in the summer of 2015, linking up with Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong as a fine United side was stripped.

He has represented 14 teams since leaving United – including Motherwell and St Johnstone – but has seldom hit the same heights.

Ukraine: Stanislav “Stan” Drabych (2022; academy player)

Stan, aged 12 at the time, joined the Dundee United academy in 2022 after his family fled the war in Ukraine and moved to his aunt’s home in Monifieth.

Formerly part of the Lviv academy in his homeland, United were alerted to his talents by his new teachers.

The youngster told the BBC: “It’s like Christmas Day, I can play football again. Before I moved from Ukraine, I didn’t play for three months. I forgot what football means and how to play football – now I’m happy.”