The Glenrothes Arabs
Glenrothes Arabs

There have been several stories regarding the origins of the Arabs term. The most popular view is that the name was coined during the severe winter of the 1962-63 season.

The weather was so bad, with heavy snow and ice that refused to thaw, that between December and March, Dundee United were able to play only three times. The worst winter on record for years wiped out the Dundee derby match on 2nd January and a frozen pitch knocked out the match against Third Lanark to begin three weeks of inactivity on the pitch.

Snow-blowers were not enough, as the real problem was ice beneath the snow - the winter freeze, which had even created large ice flows on the river Tay, caused United's Scottish Cup tie against Albion Rovers to be postponed four times. Desperate to get the tie played before the next round of the Cup was due, the management hired a squad of 25 workmen to break up the ice with picks. When this also didn't work, Club manager Jerry Kerr arranged for industrial tar burners to be brought in to melt two inch thick ice from the pitch. This resulted in the pitch being waterlogged with very little grass left.

The management then arranged for several lorry loads of coarse sand to be spread across the barren surface, and the regulation pitch markings were then painted on top in an effort to make the pitch playable. Astonishingly, the referee pronounced the pitch acceptable and the match went ahead, at the fith time of asking, on 26th January. It cost United over 600 but it was money well spent.

The conditions were described by one reporter as 'Sahara-like' and by another as 'a beach after the tide had gone out'. Although both teams struggled in the sand, United eventually adapted to the strange surface, and advanced to the next round of the Cup with goals from Jim Irvine, Dennis Gillespie and Bert Howieson, all in the final fifteen minutes of a 3-0 victory. In news reports a few days later United were likened to the 'Desert Rats', so well did they adapt to playing on the sand, and with the new all white strip which had been introduced for the first time that season, other observers were prompted to comment that the players had taken to the sand like 'Arabs'.

United didn't play another match at Tannadice unitil the start of May, but following on from the Cup tie against the Rovers, United went on to defeat Ayr United in the 4th Round, Queens Park in the 5th Round and Queen of the South in the Quarter Finals - a marathon tie that took three games to find a winner, with United winning the 2nd replay 4-0 at Ibrox. United then faced Rangers at Hampden in the Club's first ever National Semi Final, coming back from 2 goals down to level the match before half time. However Rangers went on to win 5-2 and went through to face Celtic in the Final.


United Manager Jerry Kerr inspects the frozen Tannadice pitch.


The Tar Burner at Tannadice.

The United Supporters quickly hijacked the name 'Arabs' for themselves, with the next few matches witnessing some fans wearing crude approximations of Arab headgear. However, the practice never became widespread until the late 1970s and early 1980s when it was seen at cup Semi Finals and Finals and by the early 1990s even the official club souvenir shops were selling replicas of Arab Keffiyehs in tangerine and black. By that time the term 'Arabs' had become more widely used, largely as the result of regular references to it by the popular United fanzine The Final Hurdle, which first appeared in 1988. The term has since been firmly connected with Dundee United supporters, with many Supporters Clubs using in it their Club names.

Our Club started off in the early 1980's, and offically became known as The Dundee United Supporters Club Glenrothes Branch. When the running of the club was handed over to Andy Woodrow and Bryan Orr in the early 1990's, the members decided we needed a shorter name. A couple of United Supporters Clubs had already adopted the Arabs title - The Angus Arabs, The Perth Arabs, etc - and so we decided to take it on as well, and in 1992 we officially became THE GLENROTHES ARABS, and have remained so ever since.

It is now a fairly common mistake among tabloid sports journalists to confuse the use of the term 'Arabs', using it to describe the team instead of the fans. Just as the Hibees are the team while the Hibbies are the fans, and the Jam Tarts are the team while the Jambos are the fans, Dundee United are the TERRORS while their supporters are the ARABS.
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Many thanks to Steve Gracie and Mike Watson

The Glenrothes Arabs - Website Created by Bryan Orr © Copyright 2011.