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.
While Chief Executive Scot Gardiner was quick to apologise for Brown’s teamwear outfit rather than a suit-and-tie, he seemed to have no issue with the apparently hostile and abrasive tone which ‘Bomber’ took in the face of the press pack.
In contrast now that the club and fans appeared to have recovered somewhat from the turmoil which engulfed it, there is a new sense of focus and ‘Zen’ at Dens. A dominant derby performance bore no reward in the end other than to boost the confidence of a squad keen to impress and apparently ‘play for the jersey.’ The fact that is came sandwiched in between two rather dramatic comebacks which have garnered four valuable league points and meant an unbeaten SPL run at home under Brown hints at an altogether more tantalising conclusion to the season.
Brown has from the start assured anyone who will listen that the Dees will fight, regardless of the outcome, whether it be relegation or survival. The fans are still not entirely sold I would argue but the seeds of progress are there to behold. Whether we like it or not, Scot Gardiner might well have been right all along. With four games until the league split, Dundee have an opportunity to battle from 14 points away to breathing down their nearest rivals neck. I do not imagine Danny Lennon is too worried…yet.
Here follows the masterplan, or rather reasons to be optimistic that Dundee can maintain their unlikely SPL status.
For one thing John Baird has started scoring when it matters as has Jim McAllister. I am irked by the attention given to the other more well-known attacker who arrived in January, but let’s not be negative. All season both Baird and McAllister have buzzed with energy and ingenuity but failed to quite hit their prime when it comes to goalscoring. They may well have done so now at the perfect time.
Secondly the return of Carl Finnigan from long-term injury has meant a timely boost for morale and significantly enhance the attacking corps that John Brown has at his disposal. The honest truth is that Finnigan has only played 16 minutes of first-team football, yet he exhibited enough on his loan spell in 2011/12 to justify the dark Blues signing him permanently. If we are to face the second-tier next season, we will now have a substantially experienced arsenal to do it with.
Thirdly, the fixture list looks relatively kind, and offers the Dees a chance to break some more hoodoos from the season which have so far foiled them. They play Inverness this weekend, with a second bite at Dundee United in a short period the following week. As for the Buddies whom they are chasing, it’s a run-in blinkered slightly by the prospect of a cup final. They also have a game against Celtic in the league to be concerned about. Both clubs fates may well be decided most likely by clubs from Lanarkshire. If results go against form, then Dundee could find themselves in the absurd position of having the chance to leapfrog St.Mirren into 11th place and safety by the time they meet post-split.
There is still work to be done, and it is more than realistic that the above scenario will not happen. If there is an obvious x-factor, it is that both Leighton McIntosh and Martin Boyle are currently scoring for fun at Montrose. Logic would dictate that they should both be recalled and given their chance to play for Brown. What is the worst that could happen? Another slightly more illogical tactic would be to induct second-choice goalkeeper Alex Baird into the starting line-up and allow the team to adapt to being without Rab Douglas, though when he will retire is still unclear. Not that I’m arguing he should, mind. The club remains as unpredictable as ever. For the moment, however, they are improving and it is a good time to be a Dees fan. Humble pie, anyone?