Well here we are – the game we all look forward to all season – the biggest derby in the country! All week Lochee Arab has been working himself into a frenzy on the message boards as the big day approaches. Contrary to rumour the College of Cardinals hasn’t set up shop in Tayside House – it’s just LA’s keyboard going into overdrive!
So what is it that gets us all worked up – after all to borrow a cliché it’s just a game isn’t it?
One of the reasons is the way that unlike many other derbies (and the bigot brothers come to mind) there’s no religious divide or anything similar – whole families are split between the two clubs – and there’s neither rhyme nor reason about why each of us supports the team that we do. My maw, Drumarab and Davie Webster’s paws – they all supported the “other side” – and some even admit to brothers who support the wrong team!
I belong to the generation (just) when Arabs and Dees who didn’t travel to away games went to the other team’s grounds when our team was out of town, although despite infamous pictures of me holding a Dee mug, not to mention the infamous Dee hat plonked by Yankee Dee onto my napper, we never wore the other teams colours. Dave Webster even used to take his invalid car to Tannadice and narrates a hilarious tale of running over a Celtic player’s foot at a game - gives a whole new meaning to drunk and disorderly driving that one!
But those days are very much in the past – and probably United’s success in the late 70s and 80s and the demise of the wee team at the same time had a lot to do with it. Despite claims to the contrary I suspect very few United fans were at Dens last midweek and if they were they certainly wouldn’t admit to such treacherous acts!
Derby games are also notoriously difficult to predict – they tend even now, long after the days of one club players, to be played at a more hectic pace and with more tension than other games.
Everyone has their own favourite memory of a derby too. Griswald Terror actually was AT the Dens park massacre of 65 for instance! My own has to be from a derby in recent years when a certain manager, now very much persona non grata up the road, hobbled off injured not long after coming on as a sub!
So what can we expect on Sunday? Can I interject here to say for goodness sake let’s make this the last Sunday derby – what a nonsense playing this game on that day of the week. Still money talks I suppose – and if only the money in the brown envelopes could actually talk eh!
Well McCall showed last week that he wasn’t scared of wholesale change, with both personnel and formation changed from the previous week’s debacle against Motherwell. Someone pointed out to me that despite all his signings there were seven players in the team last weekend who he inherited which if it’s true is an interesting statistic in itself.
One player I hope to see making a comeback is Charlie Miller – if only for the inevitable humour value – who can forget the belly incident in front of a Shed full of enraged Dees! We have been missing his influence in the middle of the park and I wonder whether McCall might play him in the same role as Dodds was played in last week – just behind the front two.
I hope it’s not at the expense of Craig Easton (you all knew that was coming didn’t you but I am sponsoring him this year so I have to get behind my man so to speak) who played his heart out at Pittodrie. Craig is certainly a player who will need no motivating against Dundee as he has played in enough derbies to realise they are far more important than any other games!
Otherwise the question will be whether McCall will go with a back three again – Dundee tend to play quite attacking football so I suspect a more conventional back four may be the order of the day.
Dundee seem to be having a mini-injury crisis of their own at the moment but I belong to the school of thought that says you make your own luck on derby day – and if United play with the commitment and passion they are truly capable of I am ever hopeful of a Tannadice Park massacre of 2003!
Well ok I’d consider trading that for a last minute Eastie goal to steal the game 1-0 in the fourth minute of injury time…