Lee Mair has revealed turning down a return to first club Dundee to sign for fierce rivals Dundee United was the hardest decision of his life.
Back in 2005, Mair was on the lookout for a return to Scotland after an unhappy time at Stockport County.
However, a tug-of-war between the City of Discovery rivals saw a major fall-out with “father-figure” Jim Duffy, Mair being branded ‘Judas’ in the press – and even brought death threats his way after he chose Tannadice.
After going “mental” on the phone, Dark Blues boss Duffy let rip in a press conference calling the move a “personal betrayal and a real slap in the face”.
The two have since patched things up but Mair doesn’t enjoy looking back on the experience.
Having started his career at Dens Park, the elegant defender played 79 times for the Dark Blues, including starting in the 2003 Scottish Cup Final, before leaving for Stockport.
After an unhappy time down south, Mair was looking for a return to Scotland and revealed on the Talkin Fitbaw podcast how his move back north of the border panned out.
Mair said: “Jim Duffy phoned me up and said to me: ‘Lee, I’ve heard the Dundee United deal’s fell through, would you come back to us?’
“I said: ‘Let me go and make a few conversations.’
“One of the reasons I left Dundee was because they were struggling, they went into administration and a lot of boys got sacked and a lot of the foreigners got freed.
“The club wasn’t in a good place so I thought it was a good time for me to leave and go down south.
‘I got on very, very well with Jim Duffy’
“What made this decision even harder was because I got on very, very well with Jim Duffy.
“I wasn’t having a good time down at Stockport, I was phoning him every couple of months and he’d be saying: ‘Lee, keep yourself fit, you don’t know when you’re going to get an opportunity’.
“He was like a father figure to me so when this opportunity to go back to Dundee came up I thought it was a chance for me to go back up the road.
“I obviously know Dundee well and Jim Duffy well. I said: ‘I’m going to make a few phone calls, I’ll call you back in an hour.’
“I phoned my agent and told him about the opportunity and I phoned a few people I respect in the game, I phoned Gavin Rae and I phoned my parents.
“In that time my agent then phoned me back and said: ‘Lee, Dundee United have came in and offered you more money and they’ll sign you tomorrow and offer you an extra year as well.’
“I was like: ‘Right OK, I’ve now got a predicament.’
“I weighed it up and again I spoke to a few people.
“Dundee were bottom of the league, Dundee United were signing guys like Derek McInnes, Paul Ritchie and were pushing for Europe so, for me as a career move, the right thing to do was to go to Dundee United.
It was the hardest decision of my life because I loved my time at Dundee.
“It’s probably the first result I look for on a Saturday is Dundee because them and Aberdeen were my two teams growing up.
“I had to phone Jim Duffy back and say: ‘Look, Dundee United have come back in for me and I’m going to go there.’
“He went mental.
“It was a hard conversation because, like I say, he was like a father figure to me, he helped me through my career.
“I said: ‘They’ve come back in, they’ve offered me more money, they’ve offered me an extra year.’
“And he went: ‘You’ve used me to go and get more money out of them.’
“I said: ‘Look Jim, that’s not the case at all. Maybe that’s what my agent’s done but I swear on my kids’ life that’s not what I was intending to do here.’
“So he basically hung up on me.
“The next day I was driving up the road to sign for Dundee United and I get a phone call from Robert Grieve at The Sun.
“He said: ‘Lee, what have you done?’
“I said: ‘What do you mean?
“He said: ‘We have just had the best press conference you can ever imagine. Jim Duffy has just destroyed you in the press.’
“I was like: ‘Oh no!’
“So I never thought anything of it and I get up to Dundee at night time and I’m in the chairman’s office at Dundee United.
“There’s a copy of the Evening Telegraph sitting there, I turned it over and there’s a big headline: ‘Mair the judas’.
“I was like: ‘Oh, you are kidding me on!’
“As you can imagine, that was a very enjoyable time. The Dundee fans, who I had had a great relationship with, then hated me because I had gone to Dundee United.
“I ended up living in Aberdeen and travelling to Dundee every day.
“Social media forums were going crazy and I was actually getting death threats on my phone.
“It was crazy times. That’s why I moved and lived in Aberdeen.
“Over the years I’ve got my side of the story out. I’ve spoke to loads of Dundee fans and I actually get on really well in Dundee now.
“I’ve got great feelings for the city of Dundee, my twin girls were born there as well.
“It’s part of football and it’s part of the job that players need to deal with.”