Born in Dundee, Ray McKinnon started his footballing life at Finlathen Boys Club before signing a school boy contract at Dundee United. As a kid at the club, Ray went on to represent Scotland at Under-15 level. In 1986, just a week after Ray’s 16th birthday, the youngster signed a professional contract with United.
A gifted and cultured midfield player, Ray began to make an impact at United in 1989. He made his full debut on April 8th that year in a league match at Tannadice against local rivals Dundee. It wasn’t long before Ray claimed a regular starting slot in Jim McLean’s team and he went on to score his first goal for the club in September 1990 against Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Over the next three years he racked up over 50 games for the club, scoring six goals including one against Dundee, unique in that it was the first ever domestic league game broadcast live on TV. During his first spell at United, Ray went on to become an Under-21 international and picked up a runners-up medal in the 1991 Scottish Cup final.
In the summer of 1992, Ray’s midfield skills had alerted a number of clubs and in June that year he moved to Nottingham Forest to play for Brian Clough. After a promising start to his career down South, he found himself playing less frequently than hoped and it wasn’t long before he was heading back to Scotland. Ray signed with Aberdeen in February 1994. However, in November 1995, after just over three years away from Dundee, Ray returned to Tannadice to sign for Billy Kirkwood and help United win promotion back to the Premier League.
During his second spell with United he went on to play 122 games in total for the club and extend his goals tally to 13. Three of his goals came in one match against Kilmarnock in March 1997 when he famously scored a hat-trick of free-kicks.
After failing to hold down a first team place in season 1997-98, Ray was released and he moved to Luton Town. Towards the end of his playing career he had spells at Livingston, Raith Rovers, Portadown, Stirling Albion, East Fife and Montrose.
Ray finished his playing career with junior side Lochee United and after a brief spell at Broughty Athletic, he became Lochee United manager in 2006. While at Lochee United, Ray also worked for the SFA as a Technical Development Officer. In 2012, Ray got a break back in the professional leagues, joining Brechin City as manager. After a successful spell at Glebe Park, McKinnon was appointed manager of Raith Rovers in May 2015. He guided the Kirkcaldy side to fourth place in the Championship and they qualified for the promotion play-offs. Following the end of the 2015-16 season, Ray returned to Tannadice for a third time when was installed as Manager at Dundee United.