Dundee United will take the wraps off a statue to the legendary Jim McLean outside Tannadice on Saturday.

And according to one of his most esteemed prodigies, Kevin Gallacher, the best way to honour the club’s greatest manager would be to knock Dundee off their pedestal 24 hours later.

Gallacher won’t be in Tayside this weekend as he’ll be busy working as a pundit down south.

But that won’t stop the former United striker taking a quiet minute to remember the man who made him as a footballer and who made United a force in Europe.

Gallacher – grandson of Celtic icon Patsy Gallacher – had been destined to follow the family footsteps to Parkhead. But when McLean stepped into the bargaining for the then 13-year-old in the early 80s there was no turning back.

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He went on to blossom in the McLean tough school of knocks, helping the club reach the UEFA Cup Final in 1987 before forging a career that took him to the Premier League with Newcastle and Blackburn as well as 53 caps for Scotland.

He was a teenager on the fringes of the first team when United won their only Premier League title under McLean in 1983 – famously beating their city rivals at Dens on the final day.

Now, almost 40 years later, Gallacher is hoping Tam Courts ’ current side can make the weekend extra special by following up
Saturday’s statue unveiling with a derby day drubbing and finally regain bragging rights after the Dens club relegated United five years ago.

He said: “The most fitting tribute United can pay Jim this weekend would be to win the derby.

“It’s a massive game, always is. Back in our day if you went into the town then half would love you and the other half hated you.

“It’s just how it is and it’s great to see it back in the top flight. It’s about who wants to rule the roost and thankfully in my era it was very much United who had the bragging rights.

“They were always physical games. Form didn’t matter a bit. Dundee were often struggling but when it came to the derby they always upped their game.

“Dundee rubbed it in when United were relegated and rightly so. It worked the other way when United were on top.

“It’s payback time for United now. These two teams belong in the top league and it’s just a matter of who’s on top of who when they are there. It’s brilliant that it coincides with the statue being unveiled.

"Jim deserves it. He was a hard task master, everyone knows that. But without him giving me the opportunity and sometimes managing me the way he did then I might not have been as successful as I was.

“So I will always hold him in the highest esteem.

“He took a gamble on a skinny kid and believed in my ability.

“I had been destined for Celtic. But at 13 Jim sold Dundee United to me. It was his simple words, ‘I don’t care about your size – if you’re good enough you will play for me’.

“I’m working on Saturday but I will definitely have a wee thought about Jim.”

Gallacher insists the legacy left by his former mentor will be lasting across Scottish football for generations to come. The 54-year-old added: “People say success is about winning trophies but that’s not all. It’s about turning a small football club in a two-club city into the biggest club in the city.

“What Dundee had done in the 1960s then United had to emulate in the 70s, 80s
and 90s. Jim McLean for me, did that. He put the club on the footballing map across Europe.

“He won the Premier League, he got them to a European Cup semi-final and then a European final. There were many finals on a domestic level too.

“If he’d won a few of those he’d have been held in an even higher pedestal if that was even possible.

“If you look at Scottish football in the era of the 80s and 90s, when Dundee United and Aberdeen were at the forefront with Jim and Alex Ferguson, then you could argue that kick-started our game and that real quality of Scottish managers that emerged.

“Walter Smith went on and became a fantastic manager for Rangers and Scotland. But he learned his trade working under Jim at Tannadice.

“You can see what the man had and what he passed on to other people.”

United have started the season brightly under Courts, beating champions Rangers and sitting four points clear of their neighbours.

But Gallacher knows only too well that form goes out the window when the two tayside forces collide.

He said: “Sunday could be anything. I’ve seen derby matches won on a single piece of brilliance – like Ralph Milne with that exquisite chip that won us the league at Dens Park in 1983.

“I’ve seen games won by a goalmouth scramble.

“They have been fantastic games down the decades –
it could be one goal, it could be seven goals – you just never know what you’re going to get.”