What had begun with optimism and hopes that United could continue the progress made the previous year would end up being statistically the club's worst season since before World War II. Eddie Thompson took over as chairman with the season barely a month old and quickly sacked Alex Smith, though a run of just two wins from the first ten games did not help the manager's cause. After a failed attempt to recruit Ian McCall, Paul Hegarty was put in charge provisionally until the end of the season. While the former club hero got off to a decent start with 7 points from five matches, a dismal run of ten weeks without a win followed, leading to Hegarty being dismissed at the end of January and McCall being successfully recruited.
The key factor in McCall's change of heart was that while his previous club Falkirk were runaway leaders of the First Division, it was by now evident that they were unlikely to be promoted as their ground did not meet the SPL's requirements. McCall still had the task of keeping United off the bottom of the table in the unlikely event that the SPL had a change of heart or one of the chasing pack overhauled Falkirk, and he ultimately managed this with an excellent run of form after the SPL split, leaving them to finish eleventh. However, this good finish could not mask what had been an extremely poor season by any measure, and left McCall facing a major reconstruction job.
During the 2002–03 season, United used 32 different players, with a further played named as a substitute who did not make an appearance on the pitch. The table below shows the number of appearances and goals scored by each player.
Six players were signed during the 2002–03 season, with a total (public) transfer cost of around £150,000. Four players were also signed for the following season. In addition, two players were signed on loan.
The players that joined Dundee United during the 2001-02 season, along with their previous club, are listed below.
Eight players left the club during the season with only one transfer - Steven Thompson to Rangers - bringing in a fee (£200k). Two players were loaned out during the season with six also released before next season.
Listed below are the players that were released during the season, along with the club that they joined. Players did not necessarily join their next club immediately.