By Craig Turnbull
Former Dundee United star Andy McLaren says being relegated by the club’s fiercest rivals would be a bitter pill to swallow for the fans.
That is the fate currently facing United as Dundee have the chance to relegate their rivals in Monday’s derby should Kilmarnock win against Hamilton on Saturday.
It would be the first time in 21 years that the Tannadice club’s presence wasn’t felt in the top flight and McLaren, who played in that relegated United side, knows only too well the hurt of demotion.
“Over the years they’ve enjoyed so much success over Dundee so if they lose and get relegated by their fiercest rivals that would be a real slap in the face for the fans.”
The Arabs hosted Celtic on the final day in May 1995, knowing they had to beat the Hoops and hope Aberdeen slipped up against Falkirk – it wasn’t to be. Aberdeen won 2-0 and survived via a play-off win against First Division Dunfermline. United were down.
“I remember the experience of being relegated,” he told PLZ Soccer.
“We had to beat Celtic on the final day of the season and at half-time we were 1-0 down and heard that Aberdeen were winning so we knew we were pretty much down.
“Being in the dressing room after the final whistle had gone was horrible. The place was really quiet everybody was gutted. Looking back it was a painful experience.
“But at the time I was young and I don’t think I realised the significance of relegation.
“It wasn’t until we visited places like Dumbarton’s old ground Boghead, did the reality of relegation sink in. You weren’t playing in front of 50,000 at Ibrox or Celtic Park any longer. That’s when it hit home.
“I’ve had a few low points in my career and that was definitely among them.”
Dundee Utd are eight points adrift of 11th-placed Kilmarnock and, with just four games remaining in the season, they need a minor miracle to pull off a great escape.
Some United fans have lost that belief they can survive and have returned tickets for the Dundee game, fearing the worst.
McLaren believes it would only heighten the sense of anger and frustration felt around the club to be put down by their city rivals.
“Over the years they’ve enjoyed so much success over Dundee so if they lose and get relegated by their fiercest rivals that would be a real slap in the face for the fans,” he said.
“Some of them have already said they aren’t going. I think they’ve returned around a 1,000 tickets.
“To be honest the club is a bit of a mess at the minute. A club the size of United shouldn’t be going down.
“There seems to be splits in the dressing room and amongst the board as well and I think the manager Mixu Paatelainen would be the first to admit that it hasn’t gone to plan.
“But it might just take for the club to go down and bounce back up to bring it back together.
“That’s what happened when we went down but nobody wants to have relegation on their CV.”