IT TAKES a brave man to admit he was wrong. Therefore you can award me a medal for what I’m about to write.
I was wrong about Dundee FC after the departure of Barry Smith, but only because I failed to even mention the name of John Brown in my previous column of likely successors.
On the other hand, you may be expecting me to admit through mouthfuls of humble pie rich in extra dark blueberries, that I was also wrong about the trajectory of this grand club. Yet two weeks ago if you’d have said such a thing, I would have promptly thrown such a pie back into your face.
For one thing, the press conference to officially appoint the interim Manager was scheduled after a 5-0 humbling by Celtic. The video of the conference, complete with press questions and wry digs from the new man at the expense of Jim Spence, was posted on the official club website. It was far from encouraging viewing from the perspective of this writer, and projected a somewhat frenetic image of the club.
DARK days for those in Dark Blue have become even darker with the news that Barry Smith has been relieved of his duties as head coach of Dundee Football Club. I must declare my interest henceforth, in that I wanted a managerial change after sitting and watching a soulless Dundee side play St. Johnstone at the start of the year.
Thus it is good news in a way that a change is being made, hopefully for the good of the team who have looked tactically inept for a good while. Not all of this is Smith’s responsibility certainly, but he was allowed ample time to adapt a side and seemed to favour the conservative over the ambitious. The side is now all but relegated and an opportunity for a ‘free-hit’ presents itself to any willing candidates.
Here is my half-baked analysis of the contenders to land the hot seat at Dens Park:
Jimmy Calderwood: Perhaps of greater interest to ‘Dees fans will be success of Calderwood in rescuing Kilmarnock from relegation in a short spell at Rugby Park in 2010. However, experience of management in both continental Europe and at East Coast clubs Aberdeen and Dunfermline are also beneficial to his credentials as a credible candidate. The major stumbling block may be financial, though it is also not clear whether Calderwood would be interested in a longer-term project which is likely to be required of the next man in charge. A safe bet for an attempt at avoiding the drop, but not the best choice in my view.
THE glory of a Scottish Cup run has a certain appeal, as do notable transfer deals. Fans of Dundee FC have been lucky enough to enjoy success in both in the past ten days. However, probably best you don’t ask them about league reconstruction.
Addressing the Cup first of all will be a pleasure. Quite frankly, the tone is one of shock and satisfaction.
Even Barry Smith was close to a smile in his post-match interviews as Dundee dispatched of First Division leaders Greenock Morton 5-1. Colin Nish scored…I will allow that to sink in for a moment.
The win had pundits hinting at a possible kick from the win into improved league form, as the Dees languish 14 points away from their fellow relegation candidates in the SPL. However, the preference would perhaps have been to play anyone but Ross County this coming Friday, who in recent history have either opted to frustrate the Dees into submission, or blitz them with a convincing offensive performance.
Perhaps more significantly, John Baird continued scoring. Why is this significant? Of the two starters in recent games, it is Baird who is the creative and inventive half while Colin Nish plays the role of old-fashioned Scottish centre-forward. The goal at Easter Road appeared to signal the point at which Baird had found the solution to turning ingenuity and industry up front into tangible results.
Another magnification from the Morton win was the ever increasing influence of Jim McAlister. As a former player at Cappielow, the attacker did not celebrate in the wake of his goal, but the home fans certainly did. The attitude and skill of this player in particular has proven a potent weapon for the Dark Blues, and if they are to take momentum from the Morton win and claw their way towards survival in the SPL, it will be the combination of Baird and McAlister which will be the essential component.
By Michael Donnelly:
This week brings tidings of league reconstruction and transfer rumours for Dundee Football Club.
However, it appears a proportion of fans are set for a raw deal in both cases.
Perhaps the most significant news has been the lack of tangible transfer activity for the bottom side in the Scottish Premier League. The club are seemingly content for the local and national tabloid press to report on events at Dens Park, with no mention of signings in official communications on their website, though the club did reveal that youth player Jamie Reid was off out on loan.
Thus it is no surprise to see that a reported steadfast deal to return Gary Harkins to the Dark Blues on loan turned into an apparent farce, as reports in a number of newspapers suggested Harkins wanted a permanent transfer. There may yet be column inches to be devoted to this particular story, so ‘Dees fans may want to keep alert for any updates.
The more pressing subject, in the long term, is the approach the club wishes to adopt concerning the proposed restructuring of the Scottish domestic football league. Chief Executive Scot Gardiner told the BBC news programme Reporting Scotland on Wednesday that the club were to hold a fans forum on the subject. Yet the tone suggested that sounding out the fans did not necessarily mean the club would alter their views on the matter. Gardiner said: “I believe that the majority will see the logic in it [12-12-18], once it’s explained.”
A quick peruse of the messageboards on the official club website shows a mixed response, but some users feel strongly that the club may simply be making a token effort to involve supporters in the decision-making process.
As it stands, Dundee appear the most likely candidate to be the first top-tier team to fall into the proposed ‘Championship’ division, but with the assurance that the plans to restructure will lessen the burden relegation can have on the unfortunate clubs which do face the drop. That is, however, just a theory at this stage.
By Michael Donnelly:
Fortune favoured the Dark Blues of Dundee in the summer of 2012; they were granted entry into the Scottish Premier League alongside Division One Champions Ross County. Delirium ensued in the support base, and it was left to CEO Scot Gardiner to keep a cool-head and attempt to prepare the club for a season in the top-tier.
However, it is fair to say, the delirium has subsided with an almighty ‘thud.’
At the midway point in the season, club officials, players and supporters alike are left to pore over the performances up to this point. The arguments of ‘short notice’ and ‘toiling and striving’ are wearing thin. Through a combination of injuries, and an obvious deficit in the standard of play, the ‘Dees are in much the same position as they finished last season: far behind Ross County.
Despite a few morale boosting results, the team have too often been overpowered by opponents. The double-header victories against Hearts can be challenged by the assertion that they are a club in financial crisis. Yet the win against Hibernian was purely an example of how good Dundee can be when they play well. On the other hand, heavy defeats against rivals Dundee United and an inability to avoid losing against fellow bottom-dwellers Ross County and St. Mirren emphasise the scale of the task facing them if they are to make a celebrated bid for survival.
The Dundee support hasn't had much to smile about this season.
Manager Barry Smith may have kept his job - that is, if it were actually ever in doubt - amid conspiracy theories of a media plot to undermine him, but that is perhaps not the best news for embattled fans. No doubt the players will be pleased to see the Board backing their gaffer, and what do fans know about football anyway, eh?