Dundee Rep play to give fresh insight into United legend Jim McLean

© DC ThomsonJim McLean
Jim McLean

Legendary Dundee United boss Jim McLean will be the subject of a new play marking 80 years of one of the city’s best-loved cultural institutions.

The tribute, billed as “funny, moving, and surprisingly honest”, is scheduled to open next February at the Dundee Rep, which is celebrating eight decades at the heart of the city’s cultural scene.

Dundee United manager Jim McLean (right) receives an award after his last game in charge.

The play is inspired by the life and career of the strong-willed manager, who turned his Dundee United team into a leading force in European football but also drew criticism for his management style.

Smile, a nod to the dour image often attributed to McLean, is expected to focus on how his personal and private life affected his public persona.

The 81-year-old has suffered ill health in recent years but remains an adored figure by many United fans.

Andrew Panton, the Rep’s artistic director, said: “We have been talking to Jim’s wife Doris and the McLean family for about 18 months now about what the play might be and how it might work.

“She was cautious at first, as you might expect. We wanted to create a very balanced picture of Jim McLean. It became very clear early on that there are two sides to him – the public figure and also the private figure and family man. That’s what we will be exploring.

“It will be a story that you think you know and you will know some of it, but hopefully you will get a different insight into who he was when he went home, sat on the couch and chatted to Doris, who will be represented in the play.

“We know what he did professionally and we know that some of it was divisive and controversial, but what was going on behind the scenes? His story is absolutely fascinating.

“It’s not a story about football. It’s a story about a man and how he interacted with football.”

Smile is written by Phil Duffer, perhaps best known for his work on Only An Excuse.