Since it was decided that Dundee would take Rangers place in the SPL, football fans in Dundee have had their eyes set on one date and time, 19th August 2012 12:45pm. The day the Dundee derby returns to the SPL, and Britain’s closest footballing neighbours go head to head one more.
The last competitive derby took place on April 30th 2005 when both teams were in a relegation battle. In the last round of fixtures that season Dundee United beat Inverness and Dundee defeated by Livingston to ensure United’s place in the SPL and the relegation of Dundee to the first division. Since then their fortunes could not have been more different.
In November 2006 Craig Levein became United’s eighth manager since the turn of the century. Levein transformed United from perennial relegation contenders into a club consistently finishing in the top six.
When Levein left to take the Scotland manager's job in late 2009, his assistant Peter Houston took the club one step further, winning the Scottish Cup in May 2010, and guiding United to qualify for European football in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Houston became the first manager to lead united to back to back European qualification since Jim MacLean.
Across the road Dundee have seen rockier times. Dundee struggled in the first division and manager Alex Rae was sacked in 2007 and replaced by Jocky Scott, in his third spell as Dundee manager.
In 2009 Dundee received new investment from businessman Calum Melville and conventional wisdom was that Dundee would soon be back in the SPL. But by March Dundee's lead at the top of division one was slipping away, so Jocky Scott was sacked and replaced by Gordon Chisholm. They lost out on promotion to Inverness, but off the field their problems were about to get far worse.
Dundee entered into administration for a second time, and Calum Melville left the club. The SFL gave Dundee a 25 point deduction, and a transfer embargo. The club quickly sold off its best players and many people were made redundant, including the manager Gordon Chisholm and his assistant Billy Dodds. But fans rallied round and managed to save the club for a second time.
After appointing former captain Barry Smith as manager Dundee bounced back and achieved two consecutive second place finishes in the first division.
Now the teams come face to face again, United, who finished 4th in the SPL last season, have replaced the outgoing Swanson, Robertson, Dixon, Kenneth and Pernis with the incoming Gardyne, McLean, Millar and Cierzniak. And this season should see youngsters Ryan Dow, Stuart Armstrong and Barry Douglas try a stake a place in the first team.
Dundee, who were only confirmed as SPL members on 3rd August, have had little time to prepare for life in the SPL. But in signing Davide Grassi and Mark Stewart have brought in much needed experience, while Jim McAlister and Martin Boyle have been drafted in from SFL clubs, a tactic that has served United well. And in goalkeeper Robert Douglas Dundee have one thing United don’t - a player who has played in a competitive Dundee derby.
As Sunday approaches, United go in odds on favourites. Although they go in on the back of defeat to Dinamo Moscow, they do have the advantage of a good start against HIbs, a weekend off and a pre-season win against the dark blues. But in a derby form goes out the window, can Dundee provide a shock and give their team bragging rights in City of Discovery or will United remain on top?