Jim McLean: Wikis


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Jim McLean
Personal information
Full name James Yuill McLean
Date of birth 21 April 1937 (1937-04-21) (age 72)
Place of birth    Larkhall, Scotland
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Playing position Inside forward
Youth career
Larkhall Thistle
Senior career1
Years Club App (Gls)*
Hamilton Academical
129 0(57)
102 0(32)
090 0(28)
056 00(7)
377 (124)   
Teams managed
1971–1993 Dundee United

1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.
* Appearances (Goals)

James (Jim) Yuill McLean (born 21 April 1937 in Larkhall) is a Scottish former football player and manager. He is best known for his 22-year spell as manager of Dundee United; the longest-serving and most successful manager in the club's history, he led them to three major honours and established them as a force in European competitions. He became the club's chairman in the 1980s while still manager, but resigned in 2000. He is now semi-retired, writing a weekly column for the Daily Record.


Early life

Jim McLean was born into a working-class family in Larkhall, South Lanarkshire in 1937, and grew up in the nearby village of Ashgill. He served his time as an apprentice joiner, a career he pursued part-time while playing league football, not unusual amongst footballers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Playing career

In 1956, he started his football career with Hamilton Academical as an inside forward, making over 125 league appearances before leaving 1960 to join Clyde. McLean spent a similar length of time with The Bully Wee, and had featured in over 100 league games before joining Dundee in 1965. McLean's debut for Dundee came in the Dundee derby at Dens Park on 11 September 1965 when Dundee suffered their heaviest ever defeat (5-0) to rivals Dundee United. After just under 100 league games, McLean moved on to his final club, Kilmarnock, where he played until 1970. Although never achieving the same playing success as his brother Tommy, he made a total of 474 appearances, scoring 170 times. He retired from his playing career in 1970, returning to Dundee as a coach in July of that year.

Dundee United

After coaching at Dens Park for 18 months, Dundee's rivals Dundee United offered him the position of manager to replace the retiring Jerry Kerr in December 1971. Jim accepted the offer and made the trip over the road to start his managerial career at Tannadice Park at the age of 34.

McLean immediately started a co-ordinated youth policy which was to produce many fine young players over the two decades which followed. In the short term, he used his knowledge of the Scottish scene to buy experienced players who would allow him to re-shape both the squad and the style of play in line with his approach to coaching.

Initially, the club's league form was average, remaining mostly mid-table for the next few years. McLean's first hint of the success he would later achieve was leading the club to its first Scottish Cup final in 1974 and, despite defeat, it proved an important psychological step in McLean's and the club's development. The success of the Cup run was built upon the following season with a finish of fourth place, the club's best finish in the First Division before league restructuring.

As McLean's youth policy began to bear fruit, the first of a number of talented young players began to emerge. McLean decided that his team should mount a challenge for the League championship in 1978-79, something of which the club, who had long lived in the shadow of McLean's former employers and rivals Dundee, had never previously proved capable of but after a poor finish in the first season of the new Premier Division, United started to prove that they were serious contenders for domestic honours.

In December 1979, McLean guided his team to triumph in the League Cup and retained it a year later. At the same time as the club was enjoying a high standing Scottish football, McLean was gradually building the club’s reputation in Europe, with impressive wins over sides like AS Monaco, Borussia Moenchengladbach, PSV Eindhoven, Anderlecht and Werder Bremen. The counter-attacking style which he had developed proving ideally suited to that stage.

The 1980s, and League and European success

Despite the progress he had made, however, few believed that McLean and United were potential Premier Division champions, Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen at that time were an emerging force in addition to the Old Firm. But in 1983, profiting from a late run which left those clubs in their wake, that is precisely what McLean’s largely home-grown side did, playing exhilarating attacking football in the process. At this time he additionally acted as No. 2 to Jock Stein as Scotland Manager.

Rangers, who had seen a decline in their fortunes over the previous few years, offered McLean the job as manager at Ibrox. McLean did in fact engage in early negotiations with the Glasgow giants, one of his main problems with the job offer was Rangers' policy of not signing Roman Catholics, a policy McLean found a ridiculous restriction for any employer as well has having signed many talented Catholics with Dundee United. Despite the Rangers chairman assuring him that this policy would be scrapped if he were to accept the job, McLean decided that he was happy at Dundee United, as well as his family being happily settled in the Broughty Ferry area of Dundee. McLean turned down another offer from Newcastle United in June 1984.

Following his team's League success in 1983, Dundee United made their debut in the European Cup. McLean's counter-attacking tactics paired with a pressuring style brought some memorable results in that year's European campaign. McLean inspired United to the semi-finals of that year's competition, a penalty-kick denying them a place in the final. Three years later McLean finally took the team to a European final, this time in the UEFA Cup. For the rest of his managerial career McLean would continue to secure United's high standing in domestic football, finishing outside the top four clubs only once. And taking the team to a further five Scottish Cup finals, unfortunately he was unable to manage his team past the final hurdle of the competition.

Behind the scenes

The Dundee United board made McLean a director in 1984; four years later he became chairman and managing director, while still remaining the manager. He retained those joint responsibilities until stepping down as manager in July 1993, after a reign of 21 years and seven months. He remained as chairman throughout the 1990s, departing in October 2000 following an attack on BBC Scotland reporter John Barnes.[1] McLean returned briefly in January 2002 as a director[2] but departed a month later.[3] Still a majority shareholder, McLean sold his 42% stake to Eddie Thompson in October 2002, severing his Tannadice ties permanently.[4]

McLean's "privileges" were withdrawn in October 2006 following an attack on Thompson in his weekly newspaper column. McLean had said that Thompson had been a "disaster for the club".[5]


He remained as chairman until forced to resign after a widely televised confrontation in October 2000 with BBC Scotland's John Barnes. His attack was a result of persistent questioning by the reporter. McLean apologised unreservedly for his actions. McLean remained owner of the club for another two years, after which he sold his controlling interest to Eddie Thompson.

He may be best remembered by fans as the man who took an average club with no major silverware and little experience in Europe to a Scottish League Championship, 10 domestic cup finals, a UEFA Cup final and many seasons of European football.

Since his retirement he has written a football column in the Daily Record, drawing from his 50 years in Scottish football to comment on current events in the game. He has also written Jousting With Giants: The Jim McLean Story with Ken Gallagher (ISBN 1-85158-088-3), an autobiography and account of his time with Dundee United.


External links


Simple English

James (Jim) Yuille McLean (born 1937) is a former Scottish football player and manager. He is best known for being the manager of Dundee United F.C. for 22 years between 1971 and 1993. While he was at Dundee United, the team won the 1982/83 Scottish Football League Championship and made it to many cup finals including the 1987 UEFA Cup Final against IFK Gothenburg.


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