Jim McLean

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For other people of the same name, see James McLean.
Jim McLean
Personal information
Full name James Yuill McLean
Date of birth (1937-04-21) 21 April 1937 (age 78)
Place of birth Larkhall, Scotland
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Playing position Inside forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
Larkhall Thistle
1956–1960 Hamilton Academical 129 (57)
1960–1965 Clyde 102 (32)
1965–1968 Dundee 90 (28)
1968–1970 Kilmarnock 56 (7)
Total 377 (124)
Teams managed
1971–1993 Dundee United

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

James Yuill "Jim" McLean (born 21 April 1937) is a Scottish former football player and manager, best known for his 22-year spell as manager of Dundee United between 1971 and 1993. He is the longest-serving and most successful manager in the club's history, winning three major honours. He led the club to their only Scottish Football League title in 1982-83, following on from consecutive Scottish League Cup wins in 1979 and 1980. Under McLean, the club also lost in a further eight domestic cup finals. In European football, McLean's teams won a number of notable victories, reaching the European Cup semi-finals in 1984 and the UEFA Cup final in 1987.

In addition to his Dundee United duties, he was part-time assistant manager to Jock Stein with the Scotland national team for four years, including at the 1982 World Cup.

A member of a prominent footballing family, McLean's brothers Tommy and Willie were also successful as players and managers. His own playing career included spells with Hamilton Academical, Clyde, Dundee and Kilmarnock as an inside forward.

McLean became a Dundee United director in 1984 and served as chairman between 1988 and 2000, when he resigned following an assault on a reporter. His involvement with the club finally ended in 2002 when he sold his majority shareholding.

McLean's achievements saw him win the first ever SFWA Manager of the Year award in 1987. He was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

Early life[edit]

Jim McLean was born into a working-class family in Larkhall, Lanarkshire in 1937, the second of three sons of Tom and Annie McLean, and grew up in the nearby village of Ashgill. His maternal grandfather William Yuille had been a professional footballer, playing for Rangers before the First World War. Tom McLean, a baker, had been a promising junior footballer before joining the Plymouth Brethren when he married. The three brothers, Willie, Jim and Tommy, who all went on to become professional football players and managers, had a strict religious upbringing.[1] After leaving school, McLean served an apprenticeship as a joiner, a career he continued to pursue part-time for much of his football career.

Playing career[edit]

McLean began his football career with the local junior club, Larkhall Thistle. He was the third member of the family to play for Larkhall, after his father – who appeared for them in a Scottish Junior Cup semi-final in 1932 – and his brother Willie.[2]

In 1956, he started his senior career with Hamilton Academical as an inside forward, making over 125 league appearances before leaving 1960 to join Clyde. McLean spent a similar length of time with The Bully Wee, and had featured in over 100 league games before joining Dundee in 1965. McLean's debut for Dundee came in the Dundee derby at Dens Park on 11 September 1965 when Dundee suffered their heaviest ever defeat (5–0) to rivals Dundee United. After just under 100 league games, McLean moved on to his final club, Kilmarnock, where he played until 1970. Although never achieving the same playing success as his brother Tommy, he made a total of 474 appearances, scoring 170 times. He retired from his playing career in 1970, returning to Dundee as a coach in July of that year.

Management career[edit]

After coaching at Dens Park for 18 months, Dundee's rivals Dundee United offered him the position of manager to replace the retiring Jerry Kerr in December 1971. Jim accepted the offer and made the trip over the road to start his managerial career at Tannadice Park at the age of 34.

McLean immediately started a co-ordinated youth policy which was to produce many fine young players over the two decades which followed. In the short term, he used his knowledge of the Scottish scene to buy experienced players who would allow him to re-shape both the squad and the style of play in line with his approach to coaching.

Initially, the club's league form was average, remaining mostly mid-table for the next few years. McLean's first hint of the success he would later achieve was leading the club to its first Scottish Cup final in 1974 and, despite defeat, it proved an important psychological step in McLean's and the club's development. The success of the Cup run was built upon the following season with a finish of fourth place, the club's best finish in the First Division before league restructuring.

As McLean's youth policy began to bear fruit, the first of a number of talented young players began to emerge. McLean decided that his team should mount a challenge for the League championship in 1978–79, something of which the club, who had long lived in the shadow of McLean's former employers and rivals Dundee, had never previously proved capable of but after a poor finish in the first season of the new Premier Division, United started to prove that they were serious contenders for domestic honours.

In December 1979, McLean guided his team to triumph in the League Cup and retained it a year later. At the same time as the club was enjoying a high standing Scottish football, McLean was gradually building the club's reputation in Europe, with wins over sides like [Barcelona, [AS Monaco FC|AS Monaco]], Borussia Mönchengladbach, PSV Eindhoven, Anderlecht and Werder Bremen.

1980s success[edit]

Despite the progress he had made, few believed that McLean and United were potential Premier Division champions, Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen at that time were an emerging force in addition to the Old Firm. But in 1983, profiting from a late run which left those clubs in their wake, that is precisely what McLean's largely home-grown side did, playing exhilarating attacking football in the process. At this time he additionally acted as No. 2 to Jock Stein as Scotland Manager.

Rangers, who had seen a decline in their fortunes over the previous few years, offered McLean the job as manager at Ibrox. McLean engaged in early negotiations with the Glasgow giants, one of his main problems with the job offer was Rangers' policy of not signing Roman Catholics, a policy McLean found a ridiculous restriction for any employer as well as having signed many talented Catholics with Dundee United. Despite the Rangers chairman assuring him that this policy would be scrapped if he accepted the job, McLean decided that he was happy at Dundee United; his family were happily settled in the Broughty Ferry area of Dundee. McLean turned down another offer from Newcastle United in June 1984.

Following his team's League success in 1983, Dundee United made their debut in the European Cup. McLean's counter-attacking tactics paired with a pressuring style brought some memorable results in that year's European campaign. McLean inspired United to the semi-finals of that year's competition, a penalty-kick denying them a place in the final. Three years later McLean took the team to a European final, this time in the UEFA Cup. For the rest of his managerial career McLean continued to secure United's high standing in domestic football, finishing outside the top four clubs only once, and taking the team to a further five Scottish Cup finals, though he was unable to manage his team past the final hurdle of the competition.

Later years[edit]

The Dundee United board made McLean a director in 1984; four years later he became chairman and managing director, while still remaining the manager. He retained those joint responsibilities until stepping down as manager in July 1993, after a reign of 21 years and seven months. He remained as chairman throughout the 1990s, departing in October 2000 following an attack on BBC Scotland reporter John Barnes.[3] McLean returned briefly in January 2002 as a director[4] but departed a month later.[5] Still a majority shareholder, McLean sold his 42% stake to Eddie Thompson in October 2002, severing his Tannadice ties permanently.[6]

After football[edit]

McLean formerly contributed a regular column to the Daily Record newspaper, giving his views on football. In October 2006, McLean criticised Eddie Thompson's running of Dundee United in his column, saying he had been a "disaster for the club". This led to the club withdrawing McLean's access "privileges" at Tannadice.[7]

McLean was awarded an honorary doctor of law degree by the University of Dundee in 2011, in recognition of his achievements with Dundee United.[8]



Dundee United



  1. ^ Smith, Aidan (10 May 2014). "Tommy McLean talks old times and family dynasty". The Scotsman. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Kerr, Hugh. "Hughie's Teasers". Larkhall Thistle. Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Police investigate McLean incident". BBC Sport. 16 October 2000. Retrieved 24 June 2008. 
  4. ^ Lindsay, Clive (8 January 2002). "McLean: King of Tannadice". BBC Sport. 
  5. ^ "McLean out at Tannadice". BBC Sport. 28 February 2002. 
  6. ^ "Dundee Utd takeover complete". BBC Sport. 26 September 2002. 
  7. ^ "Tannadice in McLean retaliation". BBC Sport. 28 October 2006. Retrieved 24 June 2008. 
  8. ^ Argo, Andrew (1 June 2011). "Tannadice hero Jim McLean among Dundee University graduands". The Courier (Dundee). Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • McLean, Jim; Gallacher, Ken (1987). Jousting With Giants : the Jim McLean Story. Edinburgh: Mainstream. ISBN 1-85158-088-3. 

External links[edit]