Football: Tangerines in trouble

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The Independent Online
DUNDEE UNITED are in danger of being distracted by protests during their critical fight against relegation. With their Premier League future still in the balance, the Tangerines' home game with Kilmarnock tomorrow is threatening to be overshadowed by a row between the club and its fans.

United have won only two home games all season and still need four points from their last three games to ensure survival. After spending the latter half of the decade at the wrong end of the table, including their relegation in 1995, United supporters have had enough. A number threw their scarves on to the pitch following last Saturday's 2-0 home defeat by Dundee at the weekend.

Now, the United for Change action group, who have spent the last 12 months campaigning against the current regime, have announced their intention to launch a huge protest ahead of Saturday's clash.

However, their impending action has brought a stinging response from all sections of the Tannadice club, with the chairman, Jim McLean, the manager, Paul Sturrock, and the official Dundee United Supporters' Clubs uniting in their displeasure. "One thing is certain, any demonstration before the Kilmarnock game will not help the team on the park," said Sturrock. "I will always respect the fans' right to protest - but at a time and a place when it does not affect the players. Saturday's match is an absolutely huge one for the club and I would ask our supporters to give the players 100 per cent backing."

United have slashed admission prices for the game in the hope of attracting more support. There are also as yet unsubstantiated rumours from the club that a major backer is set to invest a sum which could help the team recapture their heyday of the early 1980s.

McLean was the manager when United reached the semi-final of the European Cup in 1984 and the final of the Uefa Cup three years later. Now though, it is the likes of Kilmarnock who are enjoying regular European football.

However, although McLean can understand the frustration of supporters used to better days, he feels their intended action is misguided. "If you want to protest, then vent your frustration against me and my fellow board members at a time and a place when it does not affect the job the team has to do on the park," he said.