Jim McLean, the manager who led Dundee United to unprecedented success in the 1970s and 1980s, has died at the age of 83 after a long battle with illness.
McLean led United to the Scottish Premier Division title in 1982-83 after consecutive League Cup triumphs in 1979 and 1980.
He also took the club to the European Cup semi-finals in 1983-84 and the Uefa Cup final three seasons later.
The Scottish Premiership side confirmed the news on Saturday.
The club’s statement said: “An integral part of our history and rise to the forefront of European football, Jim was simply a titan of Dundee United folklore, cherished by the United family the world over.”
And McLean’s family, in a statement published by United, added: “Jim was a much-loved husband, father, brother, uncle and father-in-law, and we will all sadly miss him.
“His remarkable six-decade career made him a true legend not only at Dundee United, but across the world of football.”
McLean managed United from 1971 to 1993 and, latterly, was also the chairman of the Tannadice club before resigning in 2000 after assaulting a BBC reporter.
His 31-year association with the club ended in 2002, when he sold his stake to Eddie Thompson.
McLean – who led United in 10 cup finals overall – was also assistant to Scotland boss Jock Stein for four years, including at the 1982 World Cup finals.
A force in Scotland & beyond
McLean, who had been an inside forward with Hamilton Academical, Clyde, Dundee and Kilmarnock, was on the coaching staff at United’s city rivals when he was asked to replace Jerry Kerr in December 1971.
He was just 34 at the time and it took time for his impact to become clear.
United did reach the 1974 Scottish Cup final, losing to Celtic, but they remained firmly in mid-table until the 1975/76 campaign, when they only avoided relegation after a goalless draw against Rangers at Ibrox on the final day.
From then on, though, McLean’s side thrived. A 3-0 replay win against Aberdeen at Dens sealed United’s first major trophy – the 1979 League Cup – and they retained it the following year with another 3-0 at Dens, this time against Dundee.
In the 11 seasons that followed that relegation scare in the first season of the 10-team Premier Division, United would finish no lower than fourth in Scotland’s top flight.
The pinnacle came in 1983 when they became the Scottish champions. Almost inevitably, the crown was secured with yet another historic win across the road at the home of their city rivals.
United needed to beat Dundee on the final day to see off the challenge of Celtic and Aberdeen and did so thanks to goals by Eamonn Bannon and Ralph Milne.
|1970/71 – 6th||1982/83 – 1st|
|1971/72 – 9th||1983/84 – 3rd|
|1972/73 – 7th||1984/85 – 3rd|
|1973/74 – 8th||1985/86 – 3rd|
|1974/75 – 4th||1986/87 – 3rd|
|1975/76 – 8th||1987/88 – 5th|
|1976/77 – 4th||1988/89 – 4th|
|1977/78 – 3rd||1989/90 – 4th|
|1979/79 – 3rd||1990/91 – 4th|
|1979/80 – 4th||1991/92 – 4th|
|1980/81 – 5th||1992/93 – 4th|
|1981/82 – 4th|
All the while, United had gradually been establishing themselves as a side to fear in Europe.
Anderlecht, Monaco, Borussia Moenchengladbach, PSV Eindhoven and Werder Bremen were all accounted for as McLean’s side reached consecutive Uefa Cup quarter-finals, before their run to the last four of the European Cup was ended in controversial circumstances by Roma.
Another heavyweight – reigning European champions Barcelona – were swept aside on the way to the 1986/87 Uefa Cup final, only for a wilting United to lose to Gotenburg in the two-legged final.
The same week, McLean’s drained players lost the Scottish Cup final against St Mirren – one of six occasions he was denied at the final hurdle in that competition. United finally lifted the trophy – under Ivan Golac – in the first season after he stood down.
By then, McLean had retired to the directors’ box – having been first appointed to the board in 1984 – and served as chairman until his departure in 2000.
Among the managers to serve under him was younger brother Tommy, while older sibling Willie also had a successful career as a player and manager.
McLean was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
‘The best British manager’
Former United goalkeeper Hamish McAlpine
He is the number one British manager as far as I’m concerned. What he did for Dundee United was fantastic, with the players and budget he had.
He would never be happy with what you were doing, but he was always looking for that reaction of ‘I’ll show him’. We didn’t realise it at the time he was winding us up – but it worked.
Former United skipper Maurice Malpas
In terms of football he was miles ahead of everybody, we were doing things in the early 80s that people are just starting to do now – dieticians, nutritionists, sports scientists, fitness coaches. He actually got ridiculed because he had sports psychologists in trying to get that extra 1 or 2% – now it is the norm.