So I’ve been asked to come up with a Worst XI of Dundee
United players since the start of the SPL in season 1998/99. That’s no easy task, so I’m going to set myself a few
restrictions. With one exception, I’m going to avoid including players who
played less than five games for the club, because it’s difficult to know
whether or not they got a fair shake. So guys like Alphonse Tchami or Pavels
Mihadjuks are spared from inclusion because they either didn’t play enough to
be able to be judged, or were played out of position and immediately discarded
as rubbish. I’ll also avoid including youth players who made an
appearance or two and simply didn’t look up to the challenge. That just wouldn’t
be fair when there are plenty of supposedly experienced pros that have taken
top dollar for the club in exchange for practically no contribution. And yes, Rudi Skacel avoids inclusion too. He may have been
a massive disappointment, but he’s still better than some of these diddies. Writes Stuart Milne.
Goalkeeper: Derek Stillie
On the whole, United have had decent luck with goalkeepers
since the SPL started. At one time we had three international quality
goalkeepers fighting for one spot and since the start of the ‘Modern Era’
(which I consider to be from Craig Levein onwards) we’ve been blessed with one
class goalkeeper after another.
The one regular goalkeeper since 1998 who still gives me
nightmares though is Derek Spillie…I mean Stillie.
The opposite of a “Safe Pair of Hands”, you worried whenever
the opposition would make their way into our box.
He looked uninterested and he probably was. And moreover, he
was likely on more money than any of the steady keepers we’ve had since.
Left Back: Scott McCulloch
Owen Coyle cost Dundee United £400k. He was subsequently
traded along with £80k for Jamie Dolan of Motherwell. In turn, Jamie Dolan
moved to Dunfermline along with £300k for
Just think about all that money we spent to ultimately end
up with that out of shape lump!
Scott McCulloch couldn’t defend, he never scored and he
probably didn’t provide any assists either.
Oh, but he apparently won a competition to find out which
SPL player could kick the ball the hardest. The direction didn’t matter.
As crazy as it sounds, Cardiff City
actually paid us £100k to take him off our hands.
Centre Back: Paul Ritchie
Ask any United fan to identify the lowest they’ve ever felt
following the club and they’ll reply with one word – Mypa.
United were crap back in the mid-naughties but by chance we
managed to get into the Uefa Cup on the strength of a pitiful cup final loss to
We didn’t expect much, but to defeat a bunch of Finnish
nobodies seemed like a reasonable ask. And though we were held to a draw over
there, Tannadice was rocking as we took a 2-0 lead in the second leg.
Then Mark Kerr gave away a penalty. That was ok though; they
didn’t look like scoring from open play.
But with a matter of minutes left came…the moment.
Paul Ritchie decided to attempt to play Adriano (no, not the
good one) onside from his own half way line. Everyone in the crowd knew he was
nowhere near off, and yet there Paul Ritchie stood, hand in the air like a
musical statues champion as the Brazilian Donkey had a free run on goal to put
them through on away goals.
What made it worse though was his goal celebration; he
looked like he was both rubbing it in and having a fit at the same time.
So we all blame Ritchie, and so we should.
It’s not just that though, he was overpaid and – according
to a team mate of his who confided in me a couple of years later – deeply
unpopular amongst his co-workers.
After leaving us, Ritchie – still in his early 30s – would
only play three more senior games.
Not surprising in the least.
Centre Back: Kevin McGowne
When your own fans chant “Off Off Off” at the referee when
you concede a free kick, you know you’re not the best.
McGowne was a marquee signing for Alex Smith, and was an
What’s worse though is that we actually paid off his
two-year contract six months in, just to get rid of him.
When you look at United’s current debt, paying off the likes
of Kevin McGowne plays a big part in it.
Right Back: John McQuillan
Signed by Paul Sturrock on the strength of…I’m really not
sure what, John McQuillan was one of these players who was just depressingly
In the 26 league games he took part in, we won one of them.
And he came on in the 87th minute of that game.
He then went from “playing” SPL football at the age of 31 to
Division 3 football where he saw out his illustrious career.
Centre Midfield: Marcelino Galoppo
Ok, so I’m breaking from my rule about including players who
had played in less than five games, but I think Galoppo is a special case.
The reason for that is because of his enigmatic introduction
to the team.
It was a game against Rangers on Sunday October 1st 2000.
United had been struggling badly in the league and had been
fielding a large number of South American imports nobody had heard of.
When the teams were announced for that game, Galoppo was
included in centre midfield to the surprise of everyone, even the United fans.
For you see, Galoppo’s signing had been kept from the public
domain. He was to be included in the team as a secret weapon to knock Rangers
off their stride.
Except it didn’t.
He was rubbish and Rangers thumped us 3-0.
Galoppo’s only other appearance for the club was in a 4-0
thrashing by Hearts that was so bad, Jim McLean felt the need to punch John
Barnes in the face.
Centre Midfield – Derek McInnes
That Derek McInnes was even considered for the Dundee United
manager’s job recently was a slap in the face to all fans who had to endure the
Ian McCall/Gordon Chisholm Era at Tannadice.
We all remember Ian McCall asking us to stay behind at the
end of the final game of Season 02/03. As he rambled into a microphone for a
few minutes, the mood at Tannadice turned from optimism to mild embarrassment.
But one thing he did say was that things were going to get better from then on,
and he was going to do it by bringing in quality players to form a strong team.
And that team was going to be built around our new Captain –
straight from the Premiership no less – Derek McInnes.
I really wish Eddie Thompson had said no.
McInnes is one of – if not the – high paid players ever to
take the field at Tannadice. And he was garbage.
The antithesis of value for money, McInnes was a lousy
player and even lousier captain.
When he was finally paid off, Eddie Thompson must have shed
a tear at the percentage of his own personal fortune wasted on him.
Centre Midfield: David Proctor
Signed for no other reason than being Craig Brewster’s close
friend, Proctor was simply not cut out for Tannadice.
Maybe he was a victim of circumstance, because he seems to
have had a decent top flight career at Inverness
both before and after playing for us, but for whatever reason, young David just
couldn’t hack it in Tangerine and Black.
Forward: Roy O’Donovan
Craig Levein had a pretty good run at Tannadice, signing
players of a generally high standard.
But Roy O’Donovan was not one of them.
Here was a guy who the manager had been after for a little
while, but had lost out on signing him to Sunderland.
When he struggled to feature for the Black Cats, he was brought up to Tannadice
on loan, and was tipped to be our number one striker that season.
Except he was rubbish.
Exuding an attitude of “This league is beneath me”,
O’Donovan contributed almost nothing before being packed up and sent back to
the Premiership, hopefully for a refund under the trade description act.
An interesting tidbit from his time at the club was that he
was rested – along with strike partner Warren Feeney – for a League Cup match
Their replacements? The club’s fourth and fifth choice
strikers, Jon Daly and David Goodwillie.
Forward: Allan Smart
When a manager signs a striker, it’s fair to say that he
expects that striker to score goals.
Or failing that, a goal.
But Allan Smart couldn’t even provide that.
Seventeen games, no goals and a wage packet that would make
Jon Daly cry.
There have been worse players – like Alex Mathie – and there
have been more expensive players – like…erm…Alex Mathie – but if you can’t even
score one goal, you book yourself a one way ticket into the Worst XI I’m
Forward: Andis Shala
Poor old Andis; he tried his best.
Signed on the basis of pulling a few fancy tricks in
training whilst on trial, Shala just didn’t have the ability to play at SPL
From his first appearance – hitting an incisive through ball
to Samuel Eto’o in a friendly loss to Barcelona
– nothing seemed to go right.
He was full of effort and enthusiasm, but he was crap.
We thought he’s scored in the league once, but it turned out
he took a swing at the ball and missed before it went into the back of the net.
At one point, in the hope of making something out of him,
Peter Houston even tried to turn him into a centre back. Thankfully we never
got to see the fruits of that particular experiment.
In fairness to Andis, he scored twice in cup competitions
for us, and one of those – against Rangers at Ibrox in our Scottish Cup winning
year – proved to be vital.
So hey, he might be in the Worst XI, but he’s remembered
more fondly than anyone else on the list.
The Manager – Gordon Chisholm
I’m guessing a lot of people would have been expecting the
Worst XI’s manager to be Craig Brewster.
After all, Brewster had a shocking run of results, and it
looked like we were headed straight to Division 1 under him.
But Brewster – as bad as he was in terms of those results –
played an important role at Tannadice that many people underestimate.
He cleared the deadwood from the club, making sure the
overpaid under-delivering flops like McInnes, Miller and Fernandez were out the
door so he could start again.
By doing that though, Brewster left himself exposed. He had
no experienced pros around him to lead the team on the park, and ultimately he
But he did sign Noel Hunt, Craig Conway, Christian Kalvanes
and Lee Wilkie, and he left the club in a state where Craig Levein could
actually build a team.
Without Brewster, none of that would have been possible.
So to me, the worst manager would have to be Gordon Chisholm.
It was Chisholm’s mess that Brewster was tidying up.
He should have been out of the door when McCall left, but
sadly football fans are fickle, and based on one good week in charge, where
United beat Hibs in the cup and Rangers & Hearts in the league, Eddie
Thompson was bullied into making him the new man in charge (not by me, I would
hasten to add; I never wanted him to get the job)
Under Chisholm we lost a Cup Final without putting up any
fight, signed very expensive flops like Fernandez, Stevie Crawford and Lee
Miller, played Billy Dodds in midfield, got papped out of the Uefa Cup by Mypa
and surrendered a 2-0 lead to be knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Aberdeen.
He was a disaster.
The only man fit to lead such a dreadful XI.
Stuart Milne is the Scottish Research Team Manager for the
popular game Football Manager. He also gives his insights into pop culture on
Stuart Milne reviews stuff and can be found on twitter.