Jim McLean’s place in the Dundee United history books has long been cemented.
Whether it’s the major trophies he won as United manager, or the European nights under the lights at Tannadice and abroad, McLean’s career has lived long in the memory for fans of the club.
Now it will be shown on stage, with Dundee Rep preparing to welcome football fans from across the country to the show based on the legendary Tannadice boss.
The play, called Smile, was written by Phil Differ and tells of how McLean dealt with life both in and out of football during his tenure at Tannadice as he built a hugely successful team to break the dominance of Rangers and Celtic then become a force in Europe.
And director Sally Reid revealed that there are so many fascinating stories about the iconic manager that it has been a struggle to squeeze most of them into the show.
She said: “It all came about when Phil was up in Dundee and wanted to do more theatre writing.
“He has got a strong connection with Scottish football and he happened to meet Jim McLean at a media conference and he just thought, ‘There’s another side to that man that people don’t know about.’
“So when he saw the (Dundee) Rep he thought maybe that’s just the theatre piece he could write. He spoke to the Rep and it all went from there.
“We have just started reading through the script and working on it and it’s gone well. There’s been a real passion in the room about football.”
Barrie Hunter plays McLean while Chris Alexander plays all the other characters.
The play looks into McLean’s football career but also the mind behind it, with a focus on what made him tick and led to his success.
Sally said: “We have worked closely with his wife Doris and family and they’ve been very supportive. One of the stories that came out was about the hostility they all faced in Italy for the European Cup semi-final game with Roma.
“She was at the game and we heard about how they were messed about at the airport being told their plane was ready, but then found out it wasn’t even there. Then there were fans making noises outside the hotel all night trying to wake the players the night before the game. It was quite nasty.”
Barrie is revelling in the role of playing one of the most famous and successful Scottish managers of all time.
He said: “As a native Glasgow southsider, I am a Rangers fan with Pollok Juniors and Giffnock North AFC coming in at numbers two and three.
“I grew up kicking a football about with my older brother and neighbours and almost made it into the school football team – but didn’t!
“Researching Jim McLean, I’ve been watching as much footage as I can find on YouTube etc, and will continue to do so with interviews he gave and game footage too, to see him in action on the sidelines.
“I’ve also been reading through his book Jousting With Giants, and other source material, and had the pleasure of meeting with his wife Doris, who gave us all some lovely insights into the man behind the myth.”
He added: “When Jim moved to Dundee United it was like a sliding doors moment. He had been a player with Dundee, but didn’t have a good relationship with the board and so he moved across the street to United.
“We were talking about this earlier, but can you imagine what he could have done for Dundee if he had become their manager? It could have been a very different story.”
The play opens on February 18 and runs until March 7.