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  • Upturn In Form Or Relegation Form?

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    2018-19 has been tough for Dundee supporters to endure. A mid-season manager change was meant to kickstart the push to stay in Scotland's top league but has the introduction of Jim McIntyre led to an upturn in form, or a continuation of relegation form?

    Looking back, as I have been, over Dundee FC’s 1996-97 season for the occasional ‘from the scrapbooks’ blogs, it’s difficult to take in the turmoil the club was going through at the time. Having just missed out on silverware the year before, top players (Morten Weighorst, Neil McCann, Jim Hamilton) had been sold to balance the books. With erstwhile owner, Ron Dixon, often so far out of the Dens Park loop that the remaining board members couldn’t find him and beleaguered boss Jim Duffy finally having enough of bailing out his DFC charges and heading off to Hibernian (and taking Chic Charnley, Paul Tosh and Lee Power with him), stability was in short supply. On the park, the aforementioned Charnley had been sent off in a 7-2 reverse for allegedly ‘lamping’ his own team mate, in what was John McCormack’s first game in charge, while the arrival of lower league goal machine Eddie Annand still couldn’t refuel the Dark Blue’s title tilt – or even their play-off push.

    It was a crazy time but I’d argue that this season has been equally maddening, saddening and ridiculous. A fact all the more bewildering when you factor in that off the park we have been, arguably, as stable as we ever have across the past four decades. A manager has been handed his jotters, we’ve built and then destroyed an entire new squad and then assembled another one. We’ve offered the first boss of the season a mentor just days before punting him and the new man at the helm wanted to be assisted by a guy who can maybe best be described as Dark Blue public enemy number one. And don’t even get us started about the on field guff we’ve been asked to endure. 

    Neil McCann made Dens Park a sanctuary for the untried tippy-tappy underachievers from home and abroad. A remarkably one dimensional squad created with no goal threat and absolutely zero ability to keep the round thing out of the net at the other end. 

    Over and above that, individual errors – missed back passes, missed penalties, missed sitters and defenders being posted missing, meaning that Dundee seemed to miss the point – and the points – almost every week under Cardie-man’s reign. His time had come, but we stumbled on and on and on… Experience was required and when it didn’t appear in the guise of Jim Jefferies (how many near misses can you have??), it arrived in the shape of ex-DAB and wee Billy’s best mate in football, Jim McIntyre.

    Taking control to the theme tune of Orange Juice’s ‘Rip It Up (And Start Again)’, McIntyre initially tinkered and toiled with players who were either clearly not good enough or clearly not interested enough to turn around our fortunes. With a full first team’s worth of players either frozen out, or out on loan, the transfer window opened and players began being pushed through it, as others clambered in. 

    A new keeper, two new centre backs (one who got injured immediately…) a new right back. One, no two, make that three, four, maybe five midfielders arrived and a strike threat and battering ram partner also made an entrance. And yet still The General made all the headlines as he battered in a goal at Tynecastle and gifted points away on an almost weekly basis at the other end. Call it what you want, but losing last minute equalisers at Hamilton, missing a last minute game winning penalty at home to Killie, gifting Hibs four goals – and outplaying them for long stretches of a game – can only be called one thing: Relegation Form. 

    Going to Ibrox is never easy, but with McIntyre exposing his inability to know whether to stick or twist (we didn’t defend in numbers and we didn’t support the front men well, so what exactly did we do???), the 4-0 drubbing was more worrying than a usual Glasgow disaster should be. With Hamilton and St Mirren suddenly hitting some sort of form, as we let what little impetus we had built up all too easily slip away, the signs are not good.

    However, from the appointment of Neil McCann, to the assembling of a squad of gifted footballers that had no idea how to win games. From the third massive turnaround of players in two seasons (let’s not even look at Hartley’s latter days) to the club, once again, writing the manual on how not to appoint a manager, and not forgetting the Glen Kamara transfer debacle, this season has been an abject lesson in how not to build stability on the park, or to cement a place in the top flight.

    Hence, the real surprise, is that we still have our destiny in our own hands. We still have Hamilton and St Mirren to play often enough between now and the end of the season that ‘6 points’ will regularly be up for grabs. 

    We have undoubtedly improved under McIntyre. In fact I’d say without him we’d already be as good as relegated. We do seem to now know where the goal is and do seem to be able to compete against most teams in the league. What we have to do now is shake off the ‘relegation form’ and turn draws into wins and learn how to keep it tight when we have to. We also need to stamp out individual errors – yes I’m looking at you Genseric. 

    Jim McIntyre himself has said we are in for a roller coaster ride right up until the closing day of the season. Was it ever any different?

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    • By TheDarkBlues
      Neil McCann believed he brought in players who he thought were the same class as the players at Serie A sides like Milan and Juventus but the fans could see from the offset that most of the new additions weren't good enough.
      Our defence has been a shambles and it doesn’t really matter who seems to play there, nothing really changes and that is testament to the amount of goals we have shipped so far this season. 60 in total so far and that is unacceptable for the club.
      When you are not scoring goals, you expect your defence to at least keep a few clean sheets. Our goal difference could be the difference between staying up or going down.
      You could put our performances and results down to McCann's duds, but I feel that both managers have to take responsibility for our results as well. While McCann could be excused for being inexperienced, you cannot excuse some of his team selections, formations and tactics, as at times they were bloody awful. I'm not sure that given more time the results would have started to change under McCann and I think we could have been left trailing at the basement of the league. In all honestly, the shock was how long the board actually let him go on before changing.
      After McCann was sacked, John Nelms was in the news saying that we needed to bring in a more experienced manager, but in good old Dundee fashion, we couldn't even do that right.
      When the club appointed McIntyre they surely knew that the new boss would want his own assistant and that would be Billy Dodds who would bring a lot of baggage with him and there possibly would have been an uproar from the Dundee faithful. I honestly thought that Nelms and Keyes were shocked by the response and even though Dodds had been interviewed, the board quickly backtracked him out the door.
      Judging by a lot of the fans’ reaction, many were surprised but not shocked by the appointment of McIntyre but were secretly hoping that we would have brought someone else in instead. I, like many, were hoping that with the arrival of a more experienced manager we would start seeing improvements on the park, better team organisation in each area of the team, improved fitness, much better tactics and formation. But truth be told, this really didn't happen with a lot of fans bemoaning that nothing would change until the new boss got his own players in.
      In all honesty, while there has been a little improvement, it hasn't been enough and I have to ask, how long will it take before we actually start seeing the improvement on the park?
      After the January transfer window we had another mass exodus of players leaving and coming in. We have fielded more players this season than we have played games, and it has been another year of rebuilding due to management failures. I dread to think how many players we have had on our books since we were promoted to the Premier league in 2014 and the amount of money we may have wasted by getting players with long term contract off the books. Surely the board need to have a long hard think about the transfer policies and willingness to back managers in this way.
      We practically have a whole new team from the one which started the first game of the season. Gone are many so called McCann duds and McIntyre seems to have been prudent in his transfers, mostly on loan players who seem an upgrade on the departing players. Yes there are signs of improvement since January, but it still seems that we are no more organised in defence and over the last two games we have shipped eight goals.
      However, we seemed to have addressed our goal scoring issue, with Nelson looking to be a more natural goal scorer than Moussa or Mendy. Wright and Dales give us much better attacking options and Curran will harass anything that moves. But has McIntyre put together a team that can survive the drop? I guess we will have to wait and see.

      View full blog
    • By TheDarkBlues
      Neil McCann believed he brought in players who he thought were the same class as the players at Serie A sides like Milan and Juventus but the fans could see from the offset that most of the new additions weren't good enough.
      Our defence has been a shambles and it doesn’t really matter who seems to play there, nothing really changes and that is testament to the amount of goals we have shipped so far this season. 60 in total so far and that is unacceptable for the club.
      When you are not scoring goals, you expect your defence to at least keep a few clean sheets. Our goal difference could be the difference between staying up or going down.
      You could put our performances and results down to McCann's duds, but I feel that both managers have to take responsibility for our results as well. While McCann could be excused for being inexperienced, you cannot excuse some of his team selections, formations and tactics, as at times they were bloody awful. I'm not sure that given more time the results would have started to change under McCann and I think we could have been left trailing at the basement of the league. In all honestly, the shock was how long the board actually let him go on before changing.
      After McCann was sacked, John Nelms was in the news saying that we needed to bring in a more experienced manager, but in good old Dundee fashion, we couldn't even do that right.
      When the club appointed McIntyre they surely knew that the new boss would want his own assistant and that would be Billy Dodds who would bring a lot of baggage with him and there possibly would have been an uproar from the Dundee faithful. I honestly thought that Nelms and Keyes were shocked by the response and even though Dodds had been interviewed, the board quickly backtracked him out the door.
      Judging by a lot of the fans’ reaction, many were surprised but not shocked by the appointment of McIntyre but were secretly hoping that we would have brought someone else in instead. I, like many, were hoping that with the arrival of a more experienced manager we would start seeing improvements on the park, better team organisation in each area of the team, improved fitness, much better tactics and formation. But truth be told, this really didn't happen with a lot of fans bemoaning that nothing would change until the new boss got his own players in.
      In all honesty, while there has been a little improvement, it hasn't been enough and I have to ask, how long will it take before we actually start seeing the improvement on the park?
      After the January transfer window we had another mass exodus of players leaving and coming in. We have fielded more players this season than we have played games, and it has been another year of rebuilding due to management failures. I dread to think how many players we have had on our books since we were promoted to the Premier league in 2014 and the amount of money we may have wasted by getting players with long term contract off the books. Surely the board need to have a long hard think about the transfer policies and willingness to back managers in this way.
      We practically have a whole new team from the one which started the first game of the season. Gone are many so called McCann duds and McIntyre seems to have been prudent in his transfers, mostly on loan players who seem an upgrade on the departing players. Yes there are signs of improvement since January, but it still seems that we are no more organised in defence and over the last two games we have shipped eight goals.
      However, we seemed to have addressed our goal scoring issue, with Nelson looking to be a more natural goal scorer than Moussa or Mendy. Wright and Dales give us much better attacking options and Curran will harass anything that moves. But has McIntyre put together a team that can survive the drop? I guess we will have to wait and see.
    • By TheDarkBlues
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    • By barkblue
      I think you have to go back to Gordon Chisholm to find a manager that last achieved a feat that no other Dundee boss has since. Whether Barry Smith, John Brown, Paul Hartley, Neil McCann or the current incumbent, Jim McIntyre, not one of those gaffers has united the support in a way that Chis and his assistant Billy Dodds did. Admittedly, the near unification was that no one thought the ex-Arab and Dee defector were the right men for the job and while circumstances overtook the ex-DAB and Queen of the South manager, that he followed a Dee legend in Jocky Scott, who was sacked while his side were still top of the table, didn’t help. However the disdain they received was well earned during what proved to be a truly abject period for the club on and off the park.
      Since then, no matter who has stood at the helm of the good ship DFC Dens Park, there has been ever shifting sections of the great Dark Blue support who have simply refused to accept them. Sir Barry of Smith did the impossible, offering the Dee’s a season of Deefiance, with record breaking runs and the ability to stick two fingers up at the rest of Scottish Football delivered as his team shrugged off a 25 point deduction. But even that hasn’t been enough to stop some rewriting history and suggest that Barry had little to do with the upturn in form his team mustered, even though he found and then cajoled a mix of bit part trialists, youths, juniors and, admittedly, a handful of top-notch first teamers into an ever changing side that defied the odds on a weekly basis.
      Sacked after he couldn’t work the same magic with a Championship team playing in the Premier League, it was Dark Blue Legend, or side-mouth talking Hun mad man, depending on your view point, John Brown, that just about turned the relegation headed ship around. However the anger that came from the stands every time Brown’s team didn’t work miracles meant it was only going to be a matter of time before a manager that put some fight back into an apologetic team would be shot down. Whether Bomber turned his guns on himself or was put in the crosshairs by the board is still a matter for debate.
      That he tumbled from grace when his relegated Dundee team were second in the second tier meant that surely it would take a miracle to catapult The Dee back to where they wanted to be - the top flight. Enter The Messiah, or indeed, the very naughty, stubborn, fat beardy Paul Hartley, depending on your spin. With his Godly name erroneously bestowed on him by those seemingly desperate for the ex-serial promotion winning Alloa manager to fail, not only did Hartley get Brown’s team over the line and straight into the rumoured land of milk & honey, but he also catapulted the club up to its best league finish since the turn of the millennium. 
      And still he got it in the neck for cup defeats, and admittedly some of the most embarrassing derby disasters the club has ever seen. Although the Doon Derby payback he provided is something anyone who was there will simply never forget, no matter whether they were spinning triumphant dark blue above their head or sporting tear stained tangerine.
      The only slight downside to that night of nights was that it confirmed Hartley’s team had slipped from 6th to 8th in the space of a year and his side tumbled further the next season. The wheels coming careening off at break neck speed and ultimately finding the much beleaguered Hartley, now known as an angry stubborn has been (Falkirk supporters might not even be so complimentary) openly admitting he’d run out of ideas as Dundee slipped to second bottom of the league. 
      Cue the least expected appointment in recent Dundee FC history (you might have to go back to ‘Coco’ Smith in 1988 for a more left-field appointment) as the ex-Dee young gun and returning Deefiant hero Neil McCann took on the job of securing the seven points from five games needed to ensure survival. That he did so in his first three ties in charge, with two away wins and a home draw, can in no way be underestimated. A team that looked in danger of being sucked into the one automatic relegation slot instead climbing away from the play-offs and to safety. 
      It was a cameo no one expected and one few thought was a good idea, so surely this master of Houdini like escapology should be offered the job full time? Well… two capitulations in the final two games of the special guest star appearance should have set alarm bells ringing and when the man himself initially turned down the offer to prolong his stay those bells should have become a blaring klaxon. But with no ‘plan B’ (a feature of John Nelms' time at the helm) and a change of heart from the end of season superhero, the stopgap became a permanent fixture. 
      What had initially seemed to be a masterstroke of survival quickly became an act of folly, McCann’s side and ideas occasionally inspired but often insipid. And after another season of flirting with relegation the early reservations of a section of the support began to spread through the believers who had bought into the supposedly modern, exciting brand of football we were promised but never quite saw. 
      Maybe more than any before him Neil McCann split the support. Those who remembered his playing exploits and who were firmly behind his managerial ethos still, even now, backing the man when it was clear to everyone else that his appointment had been a failed experiment that might eventually prove the catalyst to Dundee losing their top flight status. As all managers do, McCann clung on but with the club looking to foist outside ideas on him, things came to breaking point with The Dee at the bottom of the table.
      Enter a man with all the attributes that most Dark Blues were looking for. A track record in mid-season rebuilding, a more pragmatic approach to grinding out results in the Scottish game and more than ten minutes of steering a club through troubled waters. Best to mention that he’s also an ex-Arab, wanted to appoint a guy as his assistant that many long suffering supporters remember as a turncoat who tried to kill this club when he – a certain Billy Dodds – and Gordon Chisholm (yes, that pair who last galvanised fan opinion in such a negative manner) voted against a win or bust CVA to come out of administration. 
      Not the best start, granted, but the anti-McIntyre sentiments from many have simmered close to boiling point from the moment he was brought into the club and it’s clear there’s a section of support already lining up to lambast him if he can’t patch up the clearly sinking ship he inherited. 
      Factor in that the type of player Neil McCann signed was never going to fit with Jim McIntyre’s footballing vision and that we are now trying to ship a minimum of ten players out of the club mid-season, while probably needing just as many to replace them, should be no surprise. It is, however, yet another recipe for disaster. 
      There’s no way back now. Three loanees - Calvin Miller, Andy Boyle and Adil Nabi - have been sent home. Marcus Haber has returned from his short spell at Falkirk only to be, quite rightly, shown the door, while Grant Nelson (who?) has also been given the bums’ rush. Another five, Kharl Madianga, Elton Ngwatala, Jean Alassane Mendy, Sofien Moussa and Lewis Spence, have been told they are no longer in the club’s plans and can leave. Then if you add to that Finnish international Glen Kamara following the path so many Dundee players have before him – to the bench at Ibrox Park – and to say that the pressure is on McIntyre to work miracles is a massive understatement.  
      Will the support give him time to get it right? Probably until about the 70th minute of the Scottish Cup return from the winter shutdown against Queen of the South. If we’re not 3-0 up by then it’ll be time to have a rummage for those well used pitchforks and burning torches. Best o’ luck Jim, I’m sure we’re all right behind you! 

      View full blog
    • By barkblue
      I think you have to go back to Gordon Chisholm to find a manager that last achieved a feat that no other Dundee boss has since. Whether Barry Smith, John Brown, Paul Hartley, Neil McCann or the current incumbent, Jim McIntyre, not one of those gaffers has united the support in a way that Chis and his assistant Billy Dodds did. Admittedly, the near unification was that no one thought the ex-Arab and Dee defector were the right men for the job and while circumstances overtook the ex-DAB and Queen of the South manager, that he followed a Dee legend in Jocky Scott, who was sacked while his side were still top of the table, didn’t help. However the disdain they received was well earned during what proved to be a truly abject period for the club on and off the park.
      Since then, no matter who has stood at the helm of the good ship DFC Dens Park, there has been ever shifting sections of the great Dark Blue support who have simply refused to accept them. Sir Barry of Smith did the impossible, offering the Dee’s a season of Deefiance, with record breaking runs and the ability to stick two fingers up at the rest of Scottish Football delivered as his team shrugged off a 25 point deduction. But even that hasn’t been enough to stop some rewriting history and suggest that Barry had little to do with the upturn in form his team mustered, even though he found and then cajoled a mix of bit part trialists, youths, juniors and, admittedly, a handful of top-notch first teamers into an ever changing side that defied the odds on a weekly basis.
      Sacked after he couldn’t work the same magic with a Championship team playing in the Premier League, it was Dark Blue Legend, or side-mouth talking Hun mad man, depending on your view point, John Brown, that just about turned the relegation headed ship around. However the anger that came from the stands every time Brown’s team didn’t work miracles meant it was only going to be a matter of time before a manager that put some fight back into an apologetic team would be shot down. Whether Bomber turned his guns on himself or was put in the crosshairs by the board is still a matter for debate.
      That he tumbled from grace when his relegated Dundee team were second in the second tier meant that surely it would take a miracle to catapult The Dee back to where they wanted to be - the top flight. Enter The Messiah, or indeed, the very naughty, stubborn, fat beardy Paul Hartley, depending on your spin. With his Godly name erroneously bestowed on him by those seemingly desperate for the ex-serial promotion winning Alloa manager to fail, not only did Hartley get Brown’s team over the line and straight into the rumoured land of milk & honey, but he also catapulted the club up to its best league finish since the turn of the millennium. 
      And still he got it in the neck for cup defeats, and admittedly some of the most embarrassing derby disasters the club has ever seen. Although the Doon Derby payback he provided is something anyone who was there will simply never forget, no matter whether they were spinning triumphant dark blue above their head or sporting tear stained tangerine.
      The only slight downside to that night of nights was that it confirmed Hartley’s team had slipped from 6th to 8th in the space of a year and his side tumbled further the next season. The wheels coming careening off at break neck speed and ultimately finding the much beleaguered Hartley, now known as an angry stubborn has been (Falkirk supporters might not even be so complimentary) openly admitting he’d run out of ideas as Dundee slipped to second bottom of the league. 
      Cue the least expected appointment in recent Dundee FC history (you might have to go back to ‘Coco’ Smith in 1988 for a more left-field appointment) as the ex-Dee young gun and returning Deefiant hero Neil McCann took on the job of securing the seven points from five games needed to ensure survival. That he did so in his first three ties in charge, with two away wins and a home draw, can in no way be underestimated. A team that looked in danger of being sucked into the one automatic relegation slot instead climbing away from the play-offs and to safety. 
      It was a cameo no one expected and one few thought was a good idea, so surely this master of Houdini like escapology should be offered the job full time? Well… two capitulations in the final two games of the special guest star appearance should have set alarm bells ringing and when the man himself initially turned down the offer to prolong his stay those bells should have become a blaring klaxon. But with no ‘plan B’ (a feature of John Nelms' time at the helm) and a change of heart from the end of season superhero, the stopgap became a permanent fixture. 
      What had initially seemed to be a masterstroke of survival quickly became an act of folly, McCann’s side and ideas occasionally inspired but often insipid. And after another season of flirting with relegation the early reservations of a section of the support began to spread through the believers who had bought into the supposedly modern, exciting brand of football we were promised but never quite saw. 
      Maybe more than any before him Neil McCann split the support. Those who remembered his playing exploits and who were firmly behind his managerial ethos still, even now, backing the man when it was clear to everyone else that his appointment had been a failed experiment that might eventually prove the catalyst to Dundee losing their top flight status. As all managers do, McCann clung on but with the club looking to foist outside ideas on him, things came to breaking point with The Dee at the bottom of the table.
      Enter a man with all the attributes that most Dark Blues were looking for. A track record in mid-season rebuilding, a more pragmatic approach to grinding out results in the Scottish game and more than ten minutes of steering a club through troubled waters. Best to mention that he’s also an ex-Arab, wanted to appoint a guy as his assistant that many long suffering supporters remember as a turncoat who tried to kill this club when he – a certain Billy Dodds – and Gordon Chisholm (yes, that pair who last galvanised fan opinion in such a negative manner) voted against a win or bust CVA to come out of administration. 
      Not the best start, granted, but the anti-McIntyre sentiments from many have simmered close to boiling point from the moment he was brought into the club and it’s clear there’s a section of support already lining up to lambast him if he can’t patch up the clearly sinking ship he inherited. 
      Factor in that the type of player Neil McCann signed was never going to fit with Jim McIntyre’s footballing vision and that we are now trying to ship a minimum of ten players out of the club mid-season, while probably needing just as many to replace them, should be no surprise. It is, however, yet another recipe for disaster. 
      There’s no way back now. Three loanees - Calvin Miller, Andy Boyle and Adil Nabi - have been sent home. Marcus Haber has returned from his short spell at Falkirk only to be, quite rightly, shown the door, while Grant Nelson (who?) has also been given the bums’ rush. Another five, Kharl Madianga, Elton Ngwatala, Jean Alassane Mendy, Sofien Moussa and Lewis Spence, have been told they are no longer in the club’s plans and can leave. Then if you add to that Finnish international Glen Kamara following the path so many Dundee players have before him – to the bench at Ibrox Park – and to say that the pressure is on McIntyre to work miracles is a massive understatement.  
      Will the support give him time to get it right? Probably until about the 70th minute of the Scottish Cup return from the winter shutdown against Queen of the South. If we’re not 3-0 up by then it’ll be time to have a rummage for those well used pitchforks and burning torches. Best o’ luck Jim, I’m sure we’re all right behind you! 
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