It is recorded that by the middle of the nineteenth century, nearly 20% of Dundee’s population were Irish-born immigrants. As Hibernian had been established in 1875 in order to provide opportunity for young Irish Catholic immigrants in Edinburgh, the Irish Catholic community in Dundee formed their own club in 1879 – Dundee Harp.
One match of note took place on 12 September 1885, when Dundee Harp racked up a remarkable 35-0 victory over Aberdeen Rovers (who competed from 1884 until 1889). What makes this feat even more peculiar is that it happened on the very same day that Arbroath achieved their record 36-0 victory over Bon Accord, the largest margin of victory in world football until 2002. Needless to say, 12 September 1885 was a bad day to be an Aberdonian club.
By 1894, Dundee Harp was facing serious financial difficulties, resulting in suspension by the SFA and eventual dissolution.
In 1909, Dundee Hibernian Football Club was formed with a mission similar to that of Edinburgh’s Hibernian, Dundee Harp and Celtic. After only one season, Dundee Hibernian were admitted into the Scottish Football League. In order to appeal to a base beyond the Irish Catholic community in Dundee, the club changed their name to Dundee United in 1923. The name ‘Dundee City FC’ had been floated, but this was protested by the club’s cross-town rivals, Dundee FC.
In the 1924/25 season, Dundee United secured promotion to the top tier for the first time. They remained there for two seasons, being relegated in 1927 and then returning in 1929. This 1928/29 second tier championship would be United’s last major honour for more than 50 years, when they won two consecutive Scottish League Cups (1979/80 and 1980/81). These League Cup victories signalled the beginning of the ‘New Firm’, when both United and Aberdeen would prove themselves as worthy competitors against Celtic and Rangers. United was also a relatively formidable football club on the European scene in the mid-1980s.
More recently, United won the 2009/10 Scottish Cup (their second victory in ten Scottish Cup final appearances). Having experienced a period of bad form in the 2015/16 season, United were relegated from the top tier. With the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019/20 season ended prematurely. At that point, United had all but won the second-tier championship with a commanding 14-point lead after 28 matches. Although the second-place Inverness Caledonian Thistle had a game in-hand, the final decision regarding the table placement came down to a ‘points per game’ ranking in which United’s 2.11 secured their first-place finish over ICT’s 1.67.
With my redesign, I have decided to stick with the somewhat jarring black and tangerine colour scheme because it’s been a ‘DUFC’ trademark since the late 1960s. But I found the black text on an orange field very unpleasing to the eye. I replaced the clunky, emboldened (and overused) Roman typeface and added the year of the club’s founding, 1909. The lion rampant has been replaced by two dragons for historical reasons, as the former Dundee Hibernian’s original crest was inspired by the Dundee coat of arms, featuring two dragons supporting an entwined ‘DH’. This was done away with when the club was renamed Dundee United. The lion rampant, which had featured on match programmes from 1956, was incorporated into a badge in 1967.
Because of Dundee United’s place as part of the ‘New Firm’ that dominated Scottish football in the 1980s, the home strip redesign is inspired by the classic Adidas kits worn during that period. The away strip redesign is inspired by United home shirts from the late 1920s.
As ever, I am indebted to Dave at Historical Football Kits for some of the historical information used above.