It’s time for the latest of our Ladbrokes SPFL Fans’ Previews and in a new twist we’ve recruited a Dens Park expert to give an impassioned rundown on his beloved Dundee.
John Neill is the author in question. He’s a Dees nut and is also in charge at The Dark Blues forum.
Here’s how he’s calling it…
Dundee FC: The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of the SPFL
It’s safe to say that over the last few years, when it comes to Dundee Football Club, you never quite know what to expect on and off the pitch, and the last two years typify our club.
When we are the bookies’ favourite to win, we lose, when we are the underdogs we just want to prove everyone wrong.
Since Paul Hartley has taken over, we have specialised in coming back from staring certain defeat in the face and end up drawing a lot of matches that we possibly would have lost.
However, there were many times we were comfortably in the lead just to see it taken away from us. The 3 -3 draw with Aberdeen at Pittodrie typified the fact our defence could be both sublime and horrific in the same game!
I, like a lot of fans, never expected a top six finish last season and to be honest, I think a lot of Dees just hoped to be in the league the season after and not just drop back down.
If someone was to say that we would have finished in the top six at the start of that season, I would have bitten their hand off for that. And yes, there were many ‘perties up, doon and aboot the Provie Rd’, that’s for sure.
Hartley waved his magic wand and a lot of players magically appeared! Although some also disappeared (you know, like the Arabs support when they are getting beat).
We added players like Hemmings, Loy, Ross, Low, Etxabeguren, and Holt while at the same keeping hold of the likes of Bain, Stewart, Thompson, McGowan and Harkins.
Many pundits expected us to go one better, and many Dees had their tickets bought for cups finals and Europe. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
Things did start off well. We played Kilmarnock off the park and scored four goals in the process. But this proved to be a false dawn for many Dee fans. Kilmarnock, who were simply not ready for the start of the season, made us look like Brazil playing Bhutan’s under 17’s.
However, two things became quite apparent, our strike force was deadlier than The Walking Dead’s Daryl with a crossbow (just not as rugged and handsome), and our defence looked like they were on trial for Lochee Boys under 12’s.
Our philosophy in the first half of the season seemed to be to achieve as many 1-1 draws as possible.
This did make for some pretty exciting games (rolls-eyes) and might well be the cause of a few Dee supporters gaining both a Prozac addiction and a dodgy heart issue. However, I believe that May 2 2016 possibly cured them of those dispositions. More on this subject will be ‘doon doon doon doon’ this page shortly
There were a few changes which saw an upturn in our fortunes: that man Hemmings decided he was just going to start score goals for fun, Harkins and Stewart decided that they were going to help him in the process.
Stewart realised that he liked playing ‘Ring a ring a roses’ with the Hamilton defence and Thompson decided his love affair with Hibs wasn’t over, kiss-kiss mwah-mwah.
Sadly, James McPake suffered what could only be called a freak, career-threatening injury (while trying to launch United’s Gavin Gunning into lunar orbit via the Bobby Cox Stand) and will be out until at least Christmas this year.
His replacement, Darren O’Dea, is a cool, calm, collective, level headed Irishman joined the club on a temporary basis and has since signed a three-year contract.
We never did manage that top six spot last season, many supporters saw this as another failure and a big disappointment.
However, looking to our nearest neighbour, you begin to get a clearer picture how bad it really could have been and how it could have set the club back.
I think however for many, the ‘Doon Derby’; made us forget everything else happened beforehand and to fill three sides of Dens Park with your own support was utterly amazing. Now, the ‘Doon Derby’; has been written into Dee history books, the final nail rammed into the Arabs coffin which relegated them into oblivion,
OK then… the sunnyside league.
Craig Wighton, a Dee supporter became an instant legend after his second-half goal relegated and sent United DOON! It’s not every day a supporter gets to relegate their boyhood team’s rivals and then have their name next to the likes of Bobby Cox and Bill Shankly. CW33!
Life without Hemmings
When Kane Hemmings joined Dundee, no one would have expected him to become such a prolific goal scorer, notching twenty-five across the season and only being bettered by Ex-Dee and Celtic player Leigh ‘Sparky’ Griffiths.
Scoring twenty-five goals is pretty decent form, and we were hoping Kane could do the same this season. However, Oxford United scuppered those plans by triggering a ‘secret’ £250k clause in his contract and off he did pop back down south in search of fame, fortune and his family.
Strikers like Hemmings do not grow on trees or within medical labs for that matter. Finding replacement wasn’t going to be easy, coupled with the possibility that we might be without our other star man, Greg Stewart.
There is a lot of interest from clubs both north and south of the border for his golden left boot and it doesn’t help matters that Stewart netted six times in four matches before the league had even begun.
We are resigned to the fact we have lost two of our best players, Hemmings, McGinn and now possibly Stewart. This alone has started a mild panic within the Dee ranks and some could be forgiven for the doom and gloom.
There have been talk of relegation, administration, fire sales, impending Armageddon and the arrival of the Four Horsemen, on the Dark Blues forum.
But we quickly stopped talking about the Arabs, and were soon back to our usual topics of unrealistic target signings, why can’t we pay at the gate, and the price of the season tickets.
Our manager has been dipping into the transfer market, and there have been a fair amount of players in and out the door.
However, we seem to be addressing last season’s issue of a threadbare squad and hopefully will have a full bench to choose from this season.
So, in comes James Vincent and Danny Williams who both signed from Inverness, Mark O’Hara from Kilmarnock, Michael Duffy who is on loan from Celtic, and Yordi Teijsee, who was signed from a part-time team from Holland. Yordi Whooooooooo?
The players on the way out this year have been tainted with some controversy.
It seems for whatever reason (and there is no short supply of rumours going around at the moment), Glorious Gary Harkins has fallen out of favour with the manager and has been told he no longer has a future at Dens. While Harkins does have his critics, his name is now entangled in Dee folklore and has gone on to become a modern day legend, a Robin Hood of sorts.
Many fans still see him being able to do a job, but now his watch has ended and no, there will not be a Jon Snow comeback for him this time.
Paul McGinn was offered a new contract, but things went south after it is believed that his agent was demanding more than the club were willing to offer. Both Hartley and McGinn refused to budge, so the manager moved on and McGinn headed off to Chesterfield.
Other players to have left the club are Daryll Meggatt (Ayr United) and Thomas Konrad. We would like to wish them all the best for the future.
Life with Faissal El Bakhtaoui
With the departure of Kane Hemmings, there was a vacant position in our forward line, and Paul Hartley quickly moved to find a replacement.
So, welcome Faiss…… Fais… sal El……. Bak…..htaoui…. erm…
Fas (As he prefers to be known… honestly) has been on Paul Hartley’s radar from the moment he ripped our defence a new one in last year’s 3-1 cup defeat against Dunfermline.
However, negotiations between the club and Fas’s agent broke down due to the player’s high wage demands and the agent demanding a Gary Harkins replica hair piece.
Apparently, the latter was a deal breaker, the camel that broke the straw’s back and the deal fell through.
It looked as if Paul Hartley wasn’t going to get his man, and Fas looked bound to Blackburn after his short trial there. However, Hartley reportedly performed some of his voodoo magic and the rest, as they say, is history. Welcome to Dens, Fas!
Now ask any Dee if they believe that ‘Fas’ can do the job in the Premier after stepping up from two divisions, and they will just point to other players who we have signed and done well in the Premier league.
Paul Hartley does seem to have a good eye for finding rough diamonds and shaping them into highly sought after players. One thing is sure, a lot of other teams wanted his signature, but the price tag for him wasn’t cheap.
Anyhow, one pressing issue that we still haven’t addressed this season is the lack of experience at the back. With James McPake still injured, we still desperately need sign a few experienced players before we are considered the finished article.
A centre-back and a right-back look to be on the cards. However, it does look like Cammy Kerr has been told that the right-back position is there for the taking, now all he needs to do is step up and own it, pretty much the same way he did with the Arab Wingers in the derbies.
The season officially started with the re-branded League Cup, and to the disappointment of many supporters our cup run ended before it really began.
To say Dundee Football Club at times are like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde would be a massive understatement, and to be knocked out of in the group stages when you’re odds-on favourites isn’t good enough.
Even more so considering all the talk in the media of how important a cup run was for the fans and the club.
The abysmal away games were in total contrast to our home ones, a draw to East Fife (in which we really lost on penalties), and again the Highlands proved it’s not a happy hunting ground for us after a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Peterhead.
The team came away from Highlands with a lot of questions and a few unhappy supporters apparently made their feelings known in and around the small ground. Paul McGowan promoted himself to club mediator and tasked himself with trying to calm the fans down and alleviating their fears. I’m happy to report there were no fatalities that night.
It hasn’t all been bad and you could be forgiven for thinking there was a totally different team coming down the tunnel at Dens. However, 2-1 down to Dumbarton at half-time and you could be forgiven for thinking the Dee were again staring at defeat.
However, a half-time Jim Mclean hair drying team talk from Hartley and the players came out thinking they were either Messi or Ronaldo (Scott Bain could have easily been recalled from the club bar when required).
The game finished a resounding 6-2 and in the end, this was a well-deserved victory for the Dark Blues.
So, roll on a week later and we faced League 1 side Forfar and more or less gave them no quarter from the start. The Dark Blues walked away with a convincing 7-0 win. Forfar should thank their lucky stars as Grant Adam produced some excellent saves, as this game could have easily been in double figures at full-time.
Let the Games Commence
If those last four games are any indication for this season, fortunes for us could go either way: really bad or really good.
I believe it will be pretty hard for the neutral to predict a scoreline regardless of who we are playing.
One thing is for sure, Paul Hartley has once again set us up to be an attack-minded side and I am pretty sure there will be plenty of goals. However, if we do not get our defensive issues sorted out, I’m not sure which side will be scoring more.
This season will be much tougher than last: Most of the clubs are diving into the transfer market and strengthening.
The Rangers are now back and looking to steal the crown from their nearest rivals. Aberdeen will no doubt broadcast their intentions about being the main contenders for the title, and will probably limp wrist into second place.
Partick Thistle, St Johnstone and Kilmarnock have also brought in new players and they will be looking to consolidate their positions in the league. So it is going to be a tough season all around.
As for Dundee FC? I know I don’t talk for all our support, but for me personally, staying in this league is a must, as it gives us a chance to rebuild for the future.
So, slowly, slowly does it. If the Dark Blues were to finish around the same position as last year, then this could be seen as another small victory and a step in the right direction. However, many Dees aren’t known for their patience.
A bottom six placing could be seen as another failure for Hartley, and some might push for a change of manager. But who would replace him?
Jetpack Jocky? Billy ‘Fly with me’ Dodd’s? Jim ‘I’ll just get your coat’ Duffy? The usual suspects that get dredged up whenever we are looking for a new manager.
Either way, no matter what happens, we are still looking forward to the derbies this coming season…with St. Johnstone (or so they keep telling us!).
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.