1930-1940 Financial Problems
Boardroom Changes

After his dismissal in 1931, Brownlie was a hard act to follow. Ex-Rangers and Motherwell centre forward Willie Reid was given the managerial reigns just weeks after United had won promotion but was unable to keep them in Division One and the decline continued on their return to the lower division.

The 1932/33 season saw United finish 13th as Lothian clubs Armadale and Bo'ness were expelled from the League after failing to meet match guarantees, and the following season saw United finish 2nd bottom as the club faced bankruptcy. As all seemed lost, the directors submitted the club's resignation from the Scottish League.

Ironically, William McIntosh - the ex-Dundee FC director who had caused the club so much trouble ten years before - emerged as one of Dundee United's saviours. Along with local councillor and tobacconist George Greig, they put up the necessary finances to prevent Dundee United from going out of existence. The two reached agreement with the club's major creditors and re-scheduled the remaining debts. Fortunately the League agreed to tear up the resignation letter and McIntosh became chairman at Tannadice.

Brownlie Returns

The new board saw Jimmy Brownlie as the saviour and he returned to the manager's seat in 1934. Although lack of available finances prevented him achieving another promotion bid, he did give the club the on field stability it had been lacking since his departure.

Brownlie signed Arthur Milne from Brechin Victoria, but Brechin City protested claiming they had signed him first. The matter was referred to the S.F.A. who ruled in United's favour, fined Brechin City and suspended two of their officials.

The 19-year-old centre forward had a sensational start to his senior career, scoring four times on his debut in a 9-6 win over Edinburgh City - a match that still stands in the club record books as the highest scoring - and three weeks later he did it again, ironically in a 6-2 win over Brechin City. He quickly established a reputation as a natural goal scorer, and formed a partnership with Bobby Gardiner up front, earning the nickname "The Mighty Midgets" as both were under 5'6".

A consistent run saw the same team fielded in 17 consecutive matches and the team scored 138 goals in 44 games. Milne finished his first season with 23 from only 18 League matches, as United finished 4th in 1934/35, just 6 points away from a promotional place.
The manager pulled off another great signing when he shrewdly negotiated the return Duncan Hutchison to Tannadice in 1935 after spells with Newcastle, Derby County and Hull City, and he continued where he left off. Although United failed to reach a promotion place during the 1935/36 season, they were fantastic value for money - winning the last 6 league games back to back and produced an astonishing 42 goals for United with only 11 against.

United team in the late 30's - Duncan Hutchison front left

The club began a slow recovery both on and off the park, but by the autumn of 1936 debts again began to rise. Clearly a wealthy man, George Greig offered to underwrite these debts, but only in return for the other directors resigning, thereby allowing him to run the club as a one-man operation. Despite having had no experience of professional football either as a player or as an administrator, he astonished everyone at Tannadice by dismissing legendary manager Jimmy Brownlie in October 1936, taking over himself in a role he described as manager-director. He left all training and what tactics there were to trainer Johnny Hart, but Greig himself insisted on selecting the team each week.

Arthur Milne

After scoring 85 goals in 81 matches - including six instances of scoring four times and five hat-tricks - Arthur Milne's stay at Tannadice was cut short following a pay dispute with Greig. After turning down a £3000 offer from Chelsea, Milne was sent on trial to Liverpool in March 1937, but this resulted in a registration mix-up that left the player a free agent and he signed for Hibernian for nothing. There was great disappointment among Tannadice fans at losing yet another hero.

Under Greig's leadership, United finished in 14th place in both 1936/37 and 1937/38, before he made his exit in 1938, selling his shareholding to a group of businessmen that included Sam Irving and non other than United legend Jimmy Brownlie. The two men adopted the unprecedented role of joint manager-director for one season as the club finished in 9th place.

Jimmy Brownlie

Brownlie and Irving stood down in July 1939, but remained as directors as former Scotland Internationalist Bobby McKay took over as manager. McKay immediately signed two players who would go on to become major characters in the future of Dundee United. Ex-St Johnstone centre half Jimmy Littlejohn was signed form Cowdenbeath, and Alloa Athletic full back Jerry Kerr was made team captain.

However, Kerr and his colleagues were to play only four League matches under McKay before the outbreak of World War II caused the Scottish League to be immediately suspended and a meeting was convened at which regional leagues were organised for what was hoped would be just one season.

When it was decided to abandon the League programme McKay's contract was terminated and he left the club, just three months after arriving. Ex-Cowdenbeath and Falkirk player Jimmy Allan was then appointed United manager.

Jerry Kerr was one of only three players who remained with United after the outbreak of the war, but the relaxed registration conditions of the time enabled a much stronger squad to be assembled. They played in the Eastern Regional League and had a good season, making full use of the professional players who had returned to the area, including previous United stars Arthur Milne, Bobby Gardiner and Thomas Adamson.

Emergency War Cup Final

They progressed to the semi-final of the Emergency War Cup - which, to all intents and purposes, was the Scottish Cup - where their captain Jerry Kerr was unlucky to sustain a shoulder injury that kept him out of the final at Hampden.

The club appeared in its first national cup final, which was played against Rangers at Hampden and attracted an attendance of around 90,000. Stand in captain Jimmy Littlejohn marshalled his team well and they gave an excellent account of themselves. United's Arthur Milne had a goal disallowed before Rangers scored what proved to be the winner - Littlejohn was man of the match and very unfortunate not to lift the trophy.

< 1923-1930 The Brownlie Era 1940-1950 World War II >
Steve Gracie Books
Arab Archive
The Glenrothes Arabs - Website Created by Bryan Orr © Copyright 2011.