Coconut macaroon bars that shed their coating like drifting snow; rich syrupy Scottish tablet that crumbles on sweetened lips, sugary morsels shimmering in the floodlit terracing; crisps -their discarded salt sachets sinking beyond the turnstile like washed confetti; and alcohol, that swirls in the air, its familiar scent snarled by back teeth and held taut in tightening throats, its taste lingering like chlorine in a swimming pool.
These are some of the deep scented ‘pious’ smells I associate with the Scottish football of my childhood. Coupled with extreme emotional highs, and lows, these elements signify an enduring journey entwined with family, friendship, team spirit and the untroubled equilibrium of winning and losing; in short a time spent diving into a vast bucket that was as half full as it was half empty. It was showtime.
We aimed to capture some of that magic last week at the VIP premiere screening of Tannadice 87, hosted by Jim Spence at the Dundee Centre for Contemporary Arts cinema. The film, my latest doc produced for purpleTV for BBC ALBA, looks at Dundee United’s journey to the UEFA Cup final in season 1986/87. It’s not entirely a story of football, well, of course it showcases some phenomenal action and individual skill, but the film isn’t just about what happened on the pitch. It aimed to capture the very essence of that incredible period in Scottish history – the smells, the volume of noise, be that of celebration, laughter or tears, and the in your face emotion, raw and intense and above all honest, encapsulated in the enduring friendship and enviable spirit of a team and their families who, as a unit, stood up for one another and simply entertained. And all the while, well, they put Scotland firmly on the map.
A number of the players and coaches from the team attended the premiere, along with their families, and as always it was incredibly emotional watching them watch my interpretation of a key period in their lives. The Q & A following the film was evidence of the camaraderie, pride, respect and love they all feel for one another, their families and the city of Dundee. It’s popular culture at its best. A snapshot of an emotional but culturally significant event that in a small sense shapes Scottish society.
They seemed to enjoy the journey and I hope you do to when it airs on BBC ALBA on the 20th May at 9pm, the 30th anniversary of the UEFA Cup final 2nd leg at Tannadice.
No matter which football team you support, or even if you don’t follow football at all, this is a story that will capture your attention along with a little bit of your heart. Dundee United’s run in 1986-87 was nothing short of remarkable and its significance is made all the more powerful given its success was driven by friendship, family and fans, and a powerful bond that remains steadfast to this day. Tannadice 87 is a story of people and place and it has been an absolute pleasure to share in its history.