Dundee relegating Dundee United was my worst moment in football even though I'm a Dee fan admits Simon Murray

By Fraser Wilson

For most Dundee fans of a certain age, the night they relegated city rivals United would rank among the highlights of their footballing memories.

But for Dens Park diehard Simon Murray it was undoubtedly the lowest.

Murray is indeed the ultimate Tayside derby contradiction.

A season-ticket holder at Dens since childhood, the striker admits he was left sick to the pit of his stomach when he led the line for the Tangerines back in 2016 and his boyhood heroes consigned the Tannadice side to the drop.

Needing a victory to have any hope of saving their skins, Mixu Paatelainen’s side threw away a 1-0 lead in the last 13 minutes as Kosta Gadzhalov and an injury-time Craig Wighton strike sparked wild scenes at Dens.

It took Dundee United four years to return to the Premiership.

The memory of that night still sends a shiver down Murray’s spine, though, particularly the gloating Dark Blues fans who would normally have been his allies rubbing it in as he and his Tangerine team-mates trudged off the park.

The striker, now at Queen’s Park, will be in the away end at Tannadice on Sunday for the first top-flight meeting between the two since that fateful Monday evening five years ago.

And this time he’s hoping he can actually enjoy a massive Dundee victory.

He said: “That defeat at Dens was without doubt the lowest point in my career. I suffered a cruciate injury in South Africa which was bad but, from purely a playing point of view, that was the worst.

“I was devastated. The truth is we didn’t get relegated just because of that one night but fate had it that Dens was the venue where it was confirmed. And with an injury-time goal to really rub it in.

“It was a horrible dark night, everything about it was awful.

“We let the fans down and I remember we went over to applaud them and thank them for their backing.

“The Dundee fans were obviously taking advantage of the chance to rub it in.

“They were celebrating relegating their biggest rivals and you can’t blame them for that. We just had to take it on the chin.

“It was a bit like running the gauntlet. It went on for a long time after on social media too.

“I’m a Dundee fan. I’ll be there on Sunday in the away end but that doesn’t change the fact that night was the lowest I’ve felt on a football pitch.

“When you play professional football then the supporting side of things doesn’t come into it.

“The fact is, the squad we had should not have ended up relegated. But at the end of the day maybe there were a few downed tools.

“Not naming names but maybe some weren’t giving what they should have. If you have even a couple then it doesn’t help.

“It’s a massive club. Back then there was a lot going on behind the scenes with the previous owners. People have their views on it but it was only going one way at that point.”

It might not have felt like it at the time but Murray reflects on United’s relegation and reckons it could be seen as a blessing as it led to regime change at the top with Stephen Thompson eventually relinquishing his grip of the club.

He said: “Looking back maybe it was something Dundee United fans will think was a blessing. They have new owners and are back in the top flight. Maybe they needed someone else to come in and rejuvenate the club.

“Some may have expected United to bounce straight back but the Championship is a hard, hard league and they had Hibs and a few other big clubs in there with them.”

Murray spent another season at Tannadice before moving on to Hibs where he was sent on loan for six months to Dens.

It was a bucket-list moment, fulfilling a boyhood dream.

But it’s as a fan that he’ll soak up the first Premiership derby between the sides in five years this weekend.

And he said: “Pulling on the Dundee strip was a dream come true, definitely.

“I grew up idolising Caballero, Caniggia, Barry Smith, guys like that. They were amazing to watch.

“But I’ll be there as a fan on Sunday. Hopefully we can put one over the Arabs, although United fans will be desperate to exorcise a few of the ghosts from 2016.

“It’s great to see both back in the top flight. It’s massive for the city and it will be a great atmosphere in the pubs and clubs before it – no trouble just good rivalry.

“And you know what? Out of the three big derbies in Scotland I’d say this is the most exciting, definitely the most goals.

“They are the most open games and both teams always want to go and win. I’ll be there with my mate from South Africa. I can’t wait.

“I want both sides to be doing well. The city needs it. And they are both looking in good shape.”


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