It may not have the glitz and glamour of the Premier League or the box office of American sports but Scottish football does have much to celebrate. It’s a game of fierce competition, cult heroes, historic clubs and great entertainment. In your time in St Andrews, try and find one Saturday where you can enjoy the cultural experience of attending a football match. Get your cup of Bovril, have an unreasonably hot pie (vegetarian options are available…usually) and enjoy a sporting spectacle like no other. The question is though, which team should you support whilst living in St Andrews?
Geographically, the closest teams to St Andrews are across the Tay Bridge in Dundee. Dundee United have one of the richest histories of any club in Scotland. The Terrors play in a now iconic tangerine, a colour very few clubs could pull-off with the same success. Their golden period came in the late 70s and 80s under the guidance of Jim McLean, where the club won their only league title, two league cup trophies and had a string of impressive European campaigns. The club famously made it to the European Cup semi-finals in 1984 (unsurprisingly the last Scottish team to do as much) and the UEFA Cup final in 1987. Though they ultimately fell short, United boast European pedigree most other clubs in Britain could only dream of. They also hold a proud record against European giants FC Barcelona. Over four competitive matches, Dundee United have four victories over the Catalans. Ole Gunnar-Solskjaer could only dream of such dominance at the Camp Nou last week. Recently the Tangerines have been in some trouble, they currently sit in the second-tier Championship and have done for the last three seasons. However, guided by manager Robbie Neilson, they look set to seal a place in the Premiership play-offs which should make a trip to Tannadice before the end of term an exciting experience. United also train at the University Sports Centre so we should probably be cheering them on as you might bump into one of the players at the gym.
Just 200 yards from Dundee United’s ground is the home of their city rivals Dundee FC. Though they are the older club and currently play in the Scottish Premiership, they have often played second-fiddle to their (very) close neighbours and look destined for relegation this season. Nevertheless, there is much to love about the Dark Blues. Similarly to their city rivals, they made the European Cup semi-finals in 1962. They may have only one Scottish Cup to their name but they did participate in a famous final in 1952. 136,495 packed into Glasgow’s Hampden Park to see Dundee face Motherwell, the largest attendance of any Scottish football game that didn’t feature Celtic or Rangers. Dens Park is also a quirky football ground to go to; its stands are wonky and uneven but still have a certain charm to them. More importantly though, Dundee wins on the catering front, with its Mexican chilli cheese pie winning a Gold Award at the World Scotch Pie Championships. Sandy, the long-term barman of the St Andrews Students’ Union, was also a lifelong Dundee fan, hence why two jerseys adorn the walls of Sandy’s Bar.
The two Dundee clubs have much to offer but St Andrews is a Fife town after all, and the Kingdom has a rich football heritage of its own. Down the coast in Methil, there is the Scottish League 1 side East Fife. With their name suggesting they represent the larger region, St Andreans could even claim this as their local team…maybe. East Fife were an established top-tier team during the 1950s and have won the League Cup three times. The historic club, founded in 1903, plays at Bayview Stadium which as the name suggests is right on the coast and exposed to all the elements. These conditions should lead to exciting action, so long as you bring your coat. Cowdenbeath, another Fife club, also ply their trade in the lower divisions. An even older club, founded in 1881, they are nicknamed the “Blue Brazil”. Maybe don’t expect exactly the same style of football though.
Dunfermline Athletic represent Fife’s biggest town. A certain Alex Ferguson made over 90 appearances for the Pars as a player back in the 1960s, who knows what happened to him? Jock Stein, the legendary Celtic and Scotland manager, also got his first break in management at East-End Park. Dunfermline have two Scottish Cup triumphs to their name but recent financial troubles have given them an extended stay in the lower divisions. Things are looking brighter for them though as they are back and secure in the Championship and many fans will be hoping to see a promotion challenge in the coming years.
Nicholas Anelka’s brother, Claude, once offered £300,000 to become a manager, joined Raith Rovers but it sadly didn’t result in any improvement on the pitch. This episode probably ranks as the strangest in Raith’s history but the Kirkcaldy club has plenty of positive stories to tell. Raith Rovers knocked Dunfermline out of the Scottish Cup this season with a 3-0 win in the first derby between the clubs in two years. Attending that game was former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a lifelong fan of the Stark’s Park club who still lives in the area. Their brightest moment undoubtedly came in 1994, when they shocked the nation by beating Celtic on penalties in the League Cup final to deliver their first major trophy. A short campaign in Europe followed. Rovers also beat Rangers 1-0 in the Challenge Cup final in 2014, completing an impressive double over the Old Firm in cup finals. As Kirkcaldy is only a short train from Leuchars – you go right past the stadium as well – a trip to watch Raith is certainly one to consider.
Whilst St Andrews certainly lives up to its name as the home of golf, there is still plenty that football has to offer in this area. Whether it’s to see the larger teams of Dundee with their neighbouring stadiums or to catch a lower league game in Kirkcaldy, Methil, Dunfermline or Cowdenbeath, there is certain to be some tough tackles, hidden gems of players and the quirky madness that makes Scottish football the fascinating spectacle it is. Give it a go.