With It Looking Likely That the Season Is Officially Over, Now Feels Like a Good Time To Look Over a Season That In Reality Maybe Never Was....
A season yet to be finished or a season that never was? Promotion through reconstruction? Play-off bound? Or denied a crack at the top flight through our own fault or circumstances? Who knows? Either way now seems as good a time as ever to have a wee look back over what has been a (part) season that’s often promised much without ever really delivering.
So as we always should, let’s start at the top. A rookie manager thrust into the hot seat, James McPake did over his few seasons pulling on Dark Blue as a player become a firm fan favourite. And yet few thought his promotion from youth coach to first team supremo was the ideal choice for a club looking to lick their wounds after a tumultuous three years that only ever seemed destined to lead to one thing - relegation.
With a threadbare squad inherited, the first time boss proved to have an eye for a player and the ability to convince them to join the Dark Blue cause. However, transferring that vision to either performances or results on the park has been a frustratingly inconsistent affair. A pair of derby disasters didn’t help, but a face saving draw away to our rivals in what looks to be our final city meeting of the season bought some time and a January window that delivered defence steadying experience.
Waterlogged pitches and, obviously, the crises of our times, quickly shrivelled any roots of recovery but in the end James McPake has just about weathered the storm of a decidedly up and down introduction to management. Prior to the transfer window I’d have struggled to award him half marks, but since then things have improved somewhat - 6/10
Jack Hamilton - The much maligned ‘keeper has had his moments, with some points winning saves impressing. Sadly, those heroics were few and far between in a season that’s been absolutely littered - once again - with embarrassing gaffs. It’s no surprise that in the end FlapJack has been quite rightly dropped - 4/10
Conor Hazard - Returning for a second spell on loan, Celtic 4th choice stopper Conor Hazard may not quite be the finished article but he certainly brought a more commanding presence to the Dundee box. He’s only played 6 six times since his return, however across that time he helped notch up a five games undefeated run and did so without losing a goal - 7/10
The Back 4… or 3… or 5…. oh, who knows?
Cammy Kerr - It’s not been an easy couple of years for Dundee’s own. A loss of form and now an uncertain place in the first team reflecting on a player who maybe needs a spell out of the limelight to move forward (no pun intended). That said he’s the current ‘Mr Dundee’ and undoubtedly has the attitude and drive to get back to his best - 5/10
Josh Meekings - One of many Dee’s to have a (part) season of two halves. Still struggling with injury early on, the Cap’s perennial problem with making gaffs has continued to blight his time in Dark Blue. That is, until a certain Christophe Berra began marshalling the Dundee rearguard. Prior to teaming up with his new defensive partner Meekings was heading for a paltry 3/10 but recent showings have turned that round and then some - 6/10
Jordon Forster - Whereas Jordon Forster may well have had a season of three thirds so far. Starting the season by littering some inspiring displays with mistakes a-plenty, the errors suddenly began to dominate his mind and cost points on an almost weekly basis. Culminating in a lapse of sanity that discarded a point at home against Queen of the South, before gifting away a couple of goals the very next home game against Dunfermline, where Dundee clung on for a memorable 4-3 victory, Forster looked all but done. Enter Berra, and Forster, the new boo boy, suddenly turned things round by looking assured, if one dimensional, in defence. Also adding an attacking threat sorely lacking from our back-line until recently, it could have been much worse for a player whose done well to resurrect his Dens Park career - 5/10
Jordan McGhee - A victim of his own versatility, McGhee has been used at full back, wing back and in centre midfield. However it’s as a centre back that the utility man has shone brightest - and yet the team’s best defensive sequence of games has come when the contender for player of the season was missing through injury - go figure! One of the gaffer’s best under the radar acquisitions and one this season’s few unmitigated successes - 8/10
Jordan Marshall - And the same can be said for the all action/no flash left back. Admittedly the constant defensive force has had a derby mare or two this season and his moment of slumber away to Dunfermline that proved pretty unforgivable have blighted an otherwise clean copybook. However, it’s actually been injury that has been Marshall’s biggest hurdle to overcome. Another inspired signing but one that we’ve maybe seen less of than we would have liked - 7/10
Christophe Berra - No one man makes a team and other players were introduced into the Dundee starting line-up around the time that the Hearts cast off made his debut. However, the turnaround in both the defensive record of Dundee since his arrival, and the team’s overall fortunes, is virtually impossible to ignore. He maybe hasn’t played enough games to merit contention for POTY (if there’s to be one in 2019/20) but it’s hard to look past the veteran Scotland international as being the best player in Dark Blue during the time he’s been at the club - 9/10
Christie Elliott - Taking the place of fan favourite Cammy Kerr midseason was never going to be an easy task. However the ex-Partick man has gone about his business quietly but effectively since staking a claim on the right of defence/midfield. Tellingly the one game where he dropped out in favour of his positional rival saw an unsure display down the Dundee right, so it was no surprise that the attacking defender came straight back in. More solid than spectacular so far - 6/10
Tom Field - Like some of the youngsters that have had limited time on the park for the first team it’s (maybe) unkind to judge left back Tom Field on what has been one substitute appearance. The official line from the club, that the Englishman’s acquisition saw the budget for a much needed frontman disappear, undoubtedly hasn’t helped the defender get a fair crack of the whip from fans but almost nonexistent game time has been a bigger factor in most people’s bemusement - 1/10
Over Crowded & Under Performing - It Must Be The Midfield
Jamie Ness - Made of chocolate? Maybe, but doubtless chocolate would take more time to breakdown without any sort of physical contact. Possibly the biggest disappointment of McPake’s signings this season, Ness came with a real pedigree but so far he’s spent way more minutes in the stand than on the pitch. Although, one goal aside, he’s been equally anonymous when he has played - 2/10
Shaun Byrne - A high profile arrival from high flying Livingston, the player who many attributed with running that club’s midfield initially struggled to impose himself in the Dundee midfield. Flitting in and out of the starting 11 in the first portion of the season without anyone really noticing, recent months have seen a big turnaround where the quietly effective midfield disruptor has been the engine of the Dundee team - 7/10
Declan McDaid - As so many wide men are, there’s no getting away from how up and down the ex-Ayr player has proved to be. Tormenting his old team and hitting a great couple of strikes from distance have been high points but some abject and anonymous performances have also been forthcoming. Still, Declan has adapted to the more defensive role recently required of him and he’s one of the few players in the current squad capable of adding a little excitement - 6/10
Paul McGowan - Deployed further up the park than most of us would have expected Gowser seems to have shelved the trademark midfield pirouette for an almost supporting striker’s role. Surprisingly it’s suited him well and after initially taking a while to adjust he’s become a key link between midfield and attack. His stamina may not be quite what it once was but the fan favourite has still been one of the better performers this term - 7/10
Josh Todd - A curious one but maybe Jim McIntyre’s final signing was a victim of not being the new manager’s man? Whatever the circumstances, full games for Todd were rarer than a week going by without Jamie Ness visiting the treatment room. Shipped out to Falkirk at the first opportunity, we’ll maybe never know if the lad could have done a job for Dundee. In all honesty he never got a fair crack of the whip - 5/10
Fin Robertson - This season’s young sensation has been well looked after so far by a manager who had already nurtured him through the club’s youth system. Even with calls from fans to get him more game time McPake has played the long game with the teenager and it’s paid off with some sumptuous midfield performances where his range of passing and vision with the ball has been something to behold. Understandably there have been one or two games that have passed the lad by but Fin’s introduction to the first team has been possibly the high point in a season of disappointments - 8/10
Graham Dorrans - Even taking Kane Hemmings’ return to Dens into account, the arrival of the ex-Scotland international and English top flight player was James McPake’s star signing. Whether the cultured central midfielder has truly lived up to that billing is open to debate but some of his passing and ball control has been a joy to watch. That said his dead-ball play has been bemusing at times and some games have seen him drop so deep that you could be forgiven for thinking he was playing in defence. Goodness knows, however, where we’d have been this season without him - 7/10
Sean Mackie - Arriving on loan from Hibs, Mackie looked all out of sorts in most of his initial starts for the team, with his defensive efforts being decidedly ‘watch through your fingers’ stuff. A stronger showing in a drawn derby did see something of a turnaround but in truth it was little surprise when the player headed back to his parent club in January - 4/10
Josh McPake - The young Rangers loanee came with high expectations but in reality, other than a few rioting performances down the wing against the league’s lower lights, the Championship looked beyond him, at least at this stage of his career - 4/10
Ross Callachan - Sadly cut short through injury, the St. Johnstone man’s loan spell was a rare thing indeed at Dens; being something of a success. Not the most cultured midfielder The Dee’s have ever seen, Callachan’s tireless running and combative style was maybe ‘budget Gavin Rae’ but it was also exactly what was required at the time. I for one wouldn’t complain if we see him back at Dens in the future - 7/10
Ollie Crankshaw - A little underused since his arrival at the club, Crankshaw’s direct style was a breath of fresh air, while his goal against Ayr United that sealed a hard fought victory was welcome indeed. In all honesty though on what little we’ve seen it’s hard to judge the lad - 6/10
The (Very) Lonely Frontmen
Andrew Nelson - It’s difficult not to like The Admiral but his disastrous one man implosion where the live-wire missed at least four gilt edged chances to turn one point into three at home against Alloa is virtually impossible to wipe from the mind. Other than that it’s been fits and starts from a player who has never got close to dislodging Kane Hemmings, or indeed Danny Johnson, from the starting 11 - 5/10
Danny Johnson - Rumours of billy-big-baws surrounded Johnson’s departure from the club, however, a player whose return of 7 goals in 22 games for Dundee is even more impressive when you consider how few of those appearances where of the 90 minute variety, still seems to have been let go all too easily. Capable of making something happen from nothing (his home goal against QotS for example), Johnson’s absence has already been felt since he headed for Leyton Orient - 7/10
Kane Hemmings - Kano took time to settle in his first spell at Dundee and in all honesty he did likewise for his second. However, once his feet were back under the table and chances started to come his way, the Hemmings magic was back. He’s also become a more rounded team player since we last saw him in Dark Blue and that’s no little compliment - 8/10
And The Bit Parts
Calum Ferrie - Only given the opportunity to shine in a Challenge Cup tie against Elgin, the young keeper’s day was turned upside down when he was red carded after being sold short by a Sean Mackie back-pass on a day The Dee were bundled out of the competition by poor lower league opposition. Hardly at fault for the defeat, let’s give the lad a free pass.
Lyall Cameron - You have to feel sorry for young Lyall. Thrown in at the deep end away to Dunfermline during one of our - and the manager’s - lowest ebbs of the season, his error strewn performance was maybe understandable. Hopefully we’ll see more of the talented youngster but under better circumstances.
Craig Curran - Making some early season, League Cup appearances, one of the few memories from Jim McIntyre’s time at the club quickly departed once his new boss got some more numbers in the door. In fairness, Curran never once gave less than his all for the club, even if his limitations were all too obvious.
While youngsters Harrison Sharp, Josh Mulligan, Michael Cunningham, Callum Moore and Max Anderson have all gotten on the park without really being given any chance to show what they can do.