We’ve been relegated before - sometimes in heartbreaking circumstances, sometimes through sheer bad luck and sometimes through little fault of our own. However the complete shambles that was the 2018/19 season has to go down as one of the worst.
We’ve been relegated before - sometimes in heartbreaking circumstances, sometimes through sheer bad luck and sometimes through little fault of our own. However, the complete and utter shambles that was the 2018/19 season has to go down as one of the most complete and abject failures I’ve witnessed as a Dundee supporter. Poor recruitment at managerial level, baffling player recruitment in an attempt to build a squad (not once but twice) capable of competing with Championship sides in the cups, never mind top flight teams, and a lack of fight, desire, passion, awareness and ability on the park. It’s basically impossible to look at any aspect of this season just passed and call it anything other than a pathetic failure. And that’s being kind.
So it’s through that shambolic prism that we look back at individual performances on and off the park, where even those who acquitted themselves with some modicum of talent and desire for the cause can barely look themselves in the mirror. That is season 2018/19.
Starting in the dugout, what more can be said? Neil McCann, that media talking machine who never seems to quite stop contradicting what we all saw – a very poor team with no leadership – started the season having yet again swept the dressing room clean. Bringing in players from across Europe that had no experience of the Scottish game and, in most cases, very little time on the park prior to arriving at Dens. There was already a feeling in pre-season and during the disastrous Betfred Cup group stages that what he had Pritt-Sticked together was a ramshackle collection of bit parts with no leaders, no creativity and no spine. A home defeat to Dunfermline shot down any chances of qualification for the knock out stages, but it was a huffing, puffing 2-0 win against Brechin, a team that hadn’t won a game in many almost a calendar year, that truly illustrated how far off the pace we were. Opening day heartbreak against St. Mirren, where a steady point was gifted away, set the tone for the entire season and tightly wound up the ticking time-bomb on McCann’s tenure as manager. With abject performances and very few goals, most Dee’s were desperate for change when it came, and it has to be said that his comments in the media since, have done little for Neil McCann’s credibility.
Enter Jim McIntyre, a man who had previously steered Ross County to safety from a seemingly worse position than the one he inherited from McCann and who had with the same unfashionable club won silverwear. Ex-DAB leanings aside, it looked like a steady, if decidedly unexciting appointment that would see a move from McCann’s total (non) football pipe dream to something a little more pragmatic and ‘safe’. How wrong those predictions proved to be, with yet another set of quick decisions made on players. Gutting the squad, Jim’s recruitment of players that he himself would bizarrely go on to describe as ‘bit-parts’ was soul destroying. In all honesty it went from worse to catastrophic and when, after a run of 10 straight defeats, he started blaming the previous regime and the overall club culture, it was clearly time to cut the guy free and move on. If most thought McCann was right to be punted, nearly everyone was delighted to see the back of a manager that baffled, bemused and angered a great deal of the support in a variety of ways. And let’s not even mention Billy Dodds…
Neil McCann: E+
Jim McIntyre: F
In all there was a ridiculous 40, yes forty, players who pulled on the dark blue last season, so here we go…
One of McCann’s marque signings, his opening day calamity that handed St.Mirren a win set the tone for a ‘keeper already renowned for struggling with the ball at his feet, who had just joined a team obsessed with knocking it about at the back. A slightly bizarre signing given Dundee’s budget but Hamilton mixed some excellent performances with some extremely unsure ones. Ultimately injury knocked him out of the team, although form had also seen him dropped on occasion. Hard to see this season as anything other than a disappointment for a player who was tipped to be Scotland’s number one not all that long ago.
Having put in some stellar performances on the way to helping secure Dundee’s top flight slot the season before, many thought it was harsh that Parish was clearly being replaced as first choice goalie, but with Hamilton’s indifferent form and likelihood to shift a few needless goals, Parish found himself back in the line-up on a day when he could, at least, take part of the blame for all four of Livingston’s goals against us. With McIntyre just days in the door, Parish was binned and eventually left the club without an announcement even being made. He deserved better than that even if this season basically didn’t happen for the guy.
Signed on loan from QPR, Dieng was one of McIntyre’s first recruits and looked initially to be an astute acquirement. Capable of some breathtaking saves, Senny does also like a calamity, and his time with The Dee will probably be remembered for a bit of both. Undoubtedly he saved us a point or two this season, but he also had a hand in shipping a few more. But then, with the ever shifting sands of our porous defence in front of him, this season was something of a baptism of fire for a young lad with promise, but also a lot of work ahead of him.
Let’s start with the only real positive in our defence, shall we? After what might well go down as one of the worst home debuts in Dundee history - Ralph being given a torrid time against Dunfermline, before being hooked in the first half - this young left back has been the main bright spot in our entire season. Cultured on the ball, strong in the tackle and with good positional sense, that Ralph hasn’t let the awful performances round about him effect his game is a huge credit to the lad. Also able to contribute in attack and cover for the team’s ever changing centre backs when they were (often) posted missing, Nathan Ralph looks to have a big future ahead of him, just not at Dens. The clear POTY in my opinion.
From one extreme to the other. Firstly, let’s remember The General’s mad dash into Hearts’ box at Tynecastle when he blasted in the opener in what proved to be an all too rare win this season. It was a genuine, ‘who saw that coming?’ moment. What we all saw coming, however, was him basically falling over against Hibs at Dens to undo our early good work that night. His crazy handball against Aberdeen to gift them a penalty and a win, and… well you get the idea, I could fill this blog with his catalogue of errors. For a snapshot of Kusunga, watch the highlights of our recent, unexpected win away against Livingston and see him running in no man’s land as he tries to mark a player already covered, before peeling back to the back post when shouted at by a team mate and ultimately ending up in no man’s land as a header bounces inches wide. Add in another bizarre handball that this time wasn’t picked up by the ref and in a matter of seconds you see a professional footballer with absolutely zero football instincts… and the word sclaff was invented for The General!
Brought in on loan from Celtic, Calvin Miller hit the ground running as a marauding left back capable of hitting the opposition’s byline and whipping in a good cross (something of a rarity for many a season at Dens). Initially the young attacking defender, who also spent time in left midfield, had been a stand out in a struggling team and while clearly not 90 minute match fit, suggested he was the real deal. However, being asked to take and then missing a penalty against Hearts in a game Dundee were competing well in seemed to burst the bubble on the lad’s season and while he was never one of our worst performers, that early promise slipped away, ultimately allowing Miller to head back to Glasgow.
To be honest I think we’ve all seen the end coming for Darren O’Dea for quite wee while now. A player who genuinely helped turn our season around when he arrived a couple of seasons back clearly struggling now for fitness. Often out injured and liable not to last 90 minutes when he was fit, that O’Dea’s style requires him to give everything he’s got every minute of a game was just a stretch too far. The frustration that must have brought seemed to spill over into his performances at times, with overly physical and rash displays littering his latter time at the club. However, retiring from the playing side of the game at the end of an awful season was much less than this committed, dedicated player deserved – and the manner in which it ended, unfortunate. One of very few who can hold his head high at the and of 2018/19, Darren O’Dea moves onto the next stage of his career with our best wishes.
Can it only be two season ago that Cammy Kerr was player of the season? Clearly not flavour of the month under either McCann or McIntyre, this season has seen the passionate Dee play at left back, right back, belatedly and rather promising in centre midfield, but all too often be left on the bench or even in the stand. With ever changing parts around and in front of him, to say it’s been an unsettling time would be an understatement. That said, in all honesty, even though for some he can do no wrong due to his ‘one of our own’ status, Cammy has been poor this season both defensively and in an attacking sense and most especially, with the positional side of his game. No one can fault this Dee’s effort, but this season has been a hard slog for the lad.
Now you see him, now you don’t. More often spotted on the treatment table than the pitch, this season has, all too predictably, been a write off for Meekings, a defender that arrived at Dens with a pedigree but who has only shown us his physical fragility. A good signing if fit? Will we ever know?
One of the most disappointing signings of recent seasons. Arriving with EPL experience and a lot of personal demons from his past, it’s hard to get past the notion that the latter aspect still dominates, unfortunately. We all wish the big lad well with his future, but what he’ll be remembered for at Dundee was a general disinterest towards our plight.
One of far too many loan signings to feature this season, Ryan Inniss showed little of the promise that got him on the books of Crystal Palace. A big, solid looking laddie, Inniss was timid as a mouse and a bit too keen in the tackle, as a rash penalty against Motherwell will attest. When he wasn’t diving in, he was standing off and when his loan was cut short mid-season, after a shocking personal and team display in the cup defeat to Queen of the South, few were that surprised.
Another loanee, Boyle too provided much shakier results than his initial promise had suggested. Often caught in no man’s land, which was maybe borne out of the ever changing defensive landscape in which he found himself, he too was cut loose mid-season. However, performing well in a loan spell with Ross County in the second half of the season as they gained automatic promotion asks the question of whether the problems were more Dundee’s than that of the player?
One of many new faces McIntyre introduced to the squad as the transfer window closed, James Horsfield made his debut in a 1-1 draw away to Hamilton, and looking reasonably assured as he did so. However, this RB’s time with the club can really be summed up with the despairing, mistimed lunge he made at Celtic’s James Forrest as the latter squared for Edouard to slot home an injury time heartbreak winner for the Glasgow club; Horsfield getting near neither player or ball. In the end, nearly but not quite for Horsfield and eventually he lost his place to the man he’d been brought in to replace, Cammy Kerr.
A big imposing centre back, McGowan arrived at Dens with bags of experience and a history with McIntyre. Impressing in early displays, his form dipped as the team’s displays fell away alarmingly and what started out looking like a similar introduction to the one O’Dea had had a few seasons before, petered out as his level was pulled down to those round about him. A poor challenge that gifted Hamilton a penalty and a win late in the season at Dens was all too much like deja vu when compared to those players he’d replaced in the first team. Still, it says it all that he was still one of out better performers.
Can there have been anything more Dundee FC this season than a heralded signing breaking his foot – while doing nothing more innocuous than running – in training before he’d even kicked a ball for the club? Meet Andrew Davies… That he was then rushed back from that injury meant that its recurring should have been no surprise. Signings like this, unlucky or not, will be what the Jim McIntyre era is remembered for.
Nathan Ralph: B+
Calvin Miller: C-
Genseric Kusunga: D-
Darren O’Dea: D
Cammy Kerr: C-
Josh Meekings: F
Stephen Caulker: F
Ryan Inniss: E
Andy Boyle: D
James Horsfield: D-
Ryan McGowan: C-
Andrew Davies: Failed to attend
Arguably Madianga was, other than Nathan Ralph, the pick of the bunch of McCann’s left-field recruits. Composed on the ball, strong in the challenge, able to pick a pass and with the occasional goal in his game, somehow the big lad still never really looked comfortable in the Scottish game. Maybe that was more down to him needing time to acclimatise than it was his lack of ability? Of all the players cut loose by McIntyre, Kharl was the one that could have made a difference as the season frittered away.
No one can fault Gowser’s desire, or indeed, his affection for the club and yet that wasn’t enough to stop this being a very disappointing year for the mercurial midfielder. Admittedly that he was used everywhere from protecting the backline to being an auxiliary attacker probably didn’t help. However, having set fairly high standards for himself in the past, this season has to be seen as a huge disappointment from the fan favourite.
The lesser of the two central midfielders McCann picked up out of nowhere, Elton showed signs of being a technically gifted player, while never really suggesting he had enough about him to cope with the demands of the Scottish game. Admittedly neither of this season’s managers gave him enough game time for us to really know, but it was no real surprise when he was allowed to the leave the club mid-season.
Starting the season as first choice right back, after McCann announced he was trying to convert the player to that position, the sparky Australian proved too lightweight and too spatially unaware to play in that position. Arguably it also robbed him of his real assets – pace and the ability to run at a player. Frustrating in the extreme, what lacked once he was moved further forward again, was end product. Often sending crosses astray, choosing the wrong option or shooting miles wide, that this player’s first goal for the club came from a great run followed by a lucky deflection was no surprise. There’s a definitely a player in there somewhere, but whether Jesse ever has the courage to discover him is another question altogether.
Undoubtedly the most talented player in either of Dundee’s squads this season, Glen Kamara for me has to go down as this season’s biggest disappointment. Whether he engineered his move to Rangers through a lack of desire on the pitch, or through Jim McIntyre’s ineptitude is open to debate, however, what isn’t so easy to dismiss is that he was a shadow of the player we saw the season before and therefore much less of an influence than we’d expected. It is also worth pointing out the player started 16 league games this season, in which we picked up only nine points.
Can you hear him roar?? Not a chance, Roarie Deacon having the heart of a mouse and the toughness of a half chewed marshmallow. Accused of being a sick-note, the suspicion was that this so called game changer couldn’t quite be bothered changing into his football boots. In flashes Roarie was brilliant in his time at Dens, but too often it was hard to tell what games he was playing in and what games he was sat in the stand for, so minimal was his impact. Oh and he still can’t be arsed with that defending malarky.
Is Lewis Spence the prime example of don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone? Possibly, but even then he was a budget option, limited midfielder who in games like that where we were comprehensively turned over by Aberdeen at Pittodrie, looked completely out of his depth. That his work rate and willingness were missed when he left and that he went on to lift the Championship trophy with Ross County means that Lewis Spence may well be playing top flight football again next season, while his former club will not.
This season Scott Allan anyone? A clearly talented player capable of turning games but equally likely to make absolutely no impact whatsoever. Scoring a few goals from midfield was no mean feat in our team but with McIntyre unsure whether he was a midfielder, wide man or striker, Scott Wright is the latest in a list of gifted players that were underused and under appreciated by his DFC manager.
Another of the deadline day captures from McIntyre, Ethan Robson showed some class in stages of games, while possessing a cloak of invisibility for much of the rest of his stay. As everyone in midfield seemed to be, he was in and out of the team on a regular basis and often outmuscled when he did appear. However, his phenomenal long range cross field pass for Wright’s goal on the final day of the season would hint that there’s more ability here than we really ever saw.
Arriving from Blackpool late on deadline day, O’Sullivan was another classic Dundee signing - a busy wide man with very little end product. We could just about have filled the entire line-up with those this season. Quick footed and tidy on the ball, knowing when to move it on to team mate seemed a more illusive skill for O’Sullivan. In the end, we barely saw enough of him to know if he was any good or not.
Initially looking to be quite a transfer window capture, Andy Dales specialised in direct, heads down play - see goal, run at goal. He was like Paul Tosh… without the end product. Shots off target, crosses that went out of play on the other side of the park and passes that trickled into nowhere all following lung bursting runs where he’d beaten two or three players. It would be fair to suggest composure is not his middle name. Completely falling out of favour as the season came to an end, arguably Dales was still one of our more potent weapons.
A no frills Swedish midfielder, Hadenius was more a case of Houdinius - now you see him, now you don’t! It’s just a shame that after a steady, unspectacular start that coincided with a three game undefeated run, the Swede wasn’t allowed to be part of our failed great escape. Why he fell out of the team and then the squad, no one will ever know. A decent looking player, but, again, on the scant evidence we got, who really knows how good or bad he is?
Or should I call him Kevin Holt in disguise?? The guy was frustrating and when he made mistakes they did tend to cost us, but this notion that he was either one of the worst midfielders we’ve ever seen or even the worst in this squad, were wildly over the top. A few stand out performances early on did maybe raise expectations that he went on to fall well short of but in all honesty he was one of the better midfield performers in the second half of a dismal season.
Being thrown into the lion’s den of a relegation battle against high flying Aberdeen was maybe an unfair debut for young Calum Moore and his conceding of a penalty that pretty much sealed our fate that day was unfortunate. Still, it was a solid, if unspectacular debut and one that gives some hope for the future.
A young lad that undoubtedly showed promise but who ultimately couldn’t convince either of the managers he played under to give him a real chance, Lambert was released without ever making a real impact on the first team. A few sub appearances aside, it’s another case of who knows?
Making a fine, if reasonably low key debut on the final day of the season, the young lad looked, neat, tidy and assured. Early days, but the faith shown in him by James McPake looks well placed.
Replacing Robertson midway through that second half, young Josh Mulligan got even less time to impress. With Dundee going down to 9 men not long after, it was a big ask, but the debutant didn’t look out of place.
Was he a midfielder, or a striker, or neither? Quickly let go by McIntyre after his arrival, Nabi was flashy on the ball and a home goal against Killie showed composure and technical ability. In fairness, he seems to have the latter to burn, but lacked nous and football awareness. In many ways he summed up Neil McCann’s signing style. A nice player to watch, but one who in the end contributed little.
Kharl Madianga: D
Paul McGowan: D+
Elton N’Gwatala: E
Jesse Curran: C-
Glen Kamara: D
Roarie Deacon: F
Lewis Spence: D-
Scott Wright: C-
Ethan Robson: D+
John O’Sullivan: D
Andy Dales: D
Andreas Hadenius: E
Martin Woods: C-
Calum Moore: C
Jack Lambert: D
Finn Robertson: C
Josh Mulligan: C
Adil Nabi: D
A couple of appearances in the League Cup was all that the youngster, who scored a vital goal in the previous season’s push to avoid relegation, got before going out on a fruitless loan to Cowdenbeath. And with that his season is pretty much summed up, other than his ultimate release. Yet another case of what could have been.
It feels like an age ago that the man who’ll be remembered for scoring with his a**e and his testimonials for us last season last sclaffed a ball for Dundee. And even Neil McCann seemed to have had enough of the hapless front man after he appeared desperate to get sent off against Ayr in the Betfred Cup. Proof if ever there was that what it takes to be a professional footballer is self belief and a hard neck.
He’ll always be known as one of the two relegators, but in truth did we ever see The Wizard’s promise come to fruition? It still hurts that he’s no longer a Dee, but so far his time with Hearts has been equally underwhelming. All the best Craig!
Jean Alassane Mendy
Brought in to spearhead the attack, Mendy showed early on that he might have the pace and positional awareness to play on the shoulder and work off balls over the top. Obviously we then decided not to play that way, so we never found out. A catastrophic performance in Perth and then a few token minutes under McIntyre sounded the death knell on his time in Dundee and another bit-part was gone.
Arguably the veteran striker was our most potent frontman of the season, scoring eight goals for the club in sporadic appearances, his main spree coincided with a brief spurt in the club’s form, but two disallowed goals in a 4-2 defeat against Hibs seemed to burst his confidence. Still, a goal against Livingston late in the season makes him the club’s oldest ever goalscorer and with him still on the books for next year, let’s hope it’s a record he keeps on breaking.
Under different circumstances Benji might have proved to be a worthy project but in a team fighting for its life and struggling for goals, a young striker finding his feet in a foreign league was a gamble that didn’t really pay off. There’s no doubt he was an honest a player who gave everything he had, but in the end that didn’t appear to be all that much.
Another player the fans love to hate, Curran is a willing worker with a knack for not scoring goals. Still he seemed to build a strong partnership with Andrew Nelson early on but when McIntyre deployed him as a lone striker, it was like playing with no striker at all. Is there room for a hard working non-scoring striker in the Championship? Well, fair to suggest our neighbours thought not.
Andrew Nelson - Equally elating and frustrating, the arrival of Andrew Nelson seemed to offer hope that we could avoid our ultimate fate this season, but with an ability to pick up injuries even more prevalent than his predilection for hitting the back of the net, it’s his inability to play 90 minutes that Nelson will be best remembered for this season. Here’s hoping the rumours of long lasting, niggling injury problems are no more than that.
Matt Henvey: F
Sofien Moussa: F
Craig Wighton: D
Jean Alassane Mendy: D
Kenny Miller: C+
Craig Curran: D
Benji Kallman: D-
Andrew Nelson: C